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Notes: Ramírez joins camp with improved velo

@RhettBollinger
February 21, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Right-hander JC Ramírez officially joined Angels camp on Friday after signing a Minor League deal, and he said his velocity improved this offseason as he’s now fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery in April 2018. Ramírez pitched just 6 2/3 innings in 2018 before undergoing the

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Right-hander JC Ramírez officially joined Angels camp on Friday after signing a Minor League deal, and he said his velocity improved this offseason as he’s now fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery in April 2018.

Ramírez pitched just 6 2/3 innings in 2018 before undergoing the surgery and returned briefly last year, throwing eight innings with a 4.50 ERA with diminished velocity. Ramírez’s fastball averaged 95.5 mph in '17, when he had a 4.15 ERA in 147 1/3 innings, but averaged 91 mph in 2019. Ramírez, though, pitched in Mexico over the offseason and said his velocity got up to 96 mph.

“That’s why I went there, to get my confidence back, to see if my velo was coming back,” Ramírez said. “It happened, so we’re halfway there. Everybody knows me here. They know what I can do. Finally coming back healthy, I feel really good. I’m just happy to be here.”

The 31-year-old is expected to be used in a relief role but was stretched out as a starter in Mexico. He made seven starts, posting a 3.48 ERA with 29 strikeouts, eight walks and two homers allowed in 41 1/3 innings. He then had two showcases this offseason, throwing in front of roughly 15 teams two weeks apart before a private workout with the Angels. They saw enough improvement in his velocity to take a chance on him with a Minor League deal.

“At this point, I’m just open to throw the ball, to show the team that I’m healthy,” Ramírez said. “They can use me wherever. Now that I’m healthy and getting close to my level again, I’m comfortable to do any kind of role.”

Angels manager Joe Maddon is pleased to have Ramírez in camp but said he has to see more of him before he determines his role. Ramírez threw a bullpen Friday and will throw a live bullpen session Sunday before he gets into Cactus League action. He could provide valuable depth for the Angels if he proves to be healthy.

“I saw the year he had a couple years ago,” Maddon said. “This guy is a specimen, man. I’m eager to see him play and see where he’s at health-wise. He’s a guy you would throw in the bullpen, I would think, if the resiliency is there.”

Up next: Angels announce lineups
The Angels released the lineups for their Cactus League openers Saturday, when they host the Royals and travel to Glendale to play the White Sox.

Angels fans will see a few familiar names in the lineup against Kansas City, as Tommy La Stella, David Fletcher, Brian Goodwin, Taylor Ward, Matt Thaiss, Michael Hermosillo, Luis Rengifo and Jared Walsh are all set to play. And top prospects Jo Adell (No. 6 overall by MLB Pipeline) and Brandon Marsh (No. 79) will both be in the lineup against Chicago.

Maddon said that regulars such as Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols will play their first game Tuesday. Anthony Rendon’s Cactus League debut could be delayed a few days, however, as he’s attending the birth of his child and is set to return Saturday.

Here are the full lineups:

At White Sox, 12:05 p.m. PT/1:05 p.m. MT
1) Brandon Marsh, LF
2) Jo Adell, RF
3) Anthony Bemboom, C
4) Jose Rojas, 1B
5) Jahmai Jones, 2B
6) Arismendy Alcantara, SS
7) Brennon Lund, CF
8) Elliot Soto, 3B
9) Franklin Torres, DH
P: Jake Thompson

Vs. Royals, 12:10 p.m. PT/1:10 p.m. MT
1) Tommy La Stella, 2B
2) David Fletcher, 3B
3) Brian Goodwin, RF
4) Taylor Ward, LF
5) Matt Thaiss, 1B
6) Michael Hermosillo, CF
7) Luis Rengifo, SS
8) Jared Walsh, DH
9) Jose Briceño, C
P: Matt Ball

Angels tidbits
• Reliever Ty Buttrey, who is dealing with an intercostal strain, has progressed to playing light catch. He could return to action in about a week and he’s expected to be ready for Opening Day.

• Maddon reiterated that he believes backup catcher Max Stassi will be ready for Opening Day despite having right hip surgery on the first day of the offseason. The Angels have been cautious with Stassi so far this spring, but he’s still been getting his work in with the other catchers and taking batting practice.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.