Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ramon Ramirez skirts danger in late innings

Ramon Ramirez was worked as hard as any Red Sox pitcher in the early going, making 20 appearances in his team's first 38 games. It was then that Terry Francona tried to ease off the throttle and give his power-armed reliever a little bit of a break.

There's only one problem: When Ramirez gets a break, he starts to feel too strong. When he feels too strong, he starts to overthrow.

"I feel so loose sometimes, and when I feel so loose, I try to throw so hard," the Dominican righthander said.

He got himself into trouble in the eighth inning on Wednesday, walking Hanley Ramirez after an eight-pitch battle and leaving a fastball in the middle of the plate for Jorge Cantu to rip into left field for a base hit.

The final two pitches he threw Ramirez both were fastballs out of the zone. Three of the four pitches he threw Cantu, including the pitch on which the designated hitter singled, were fastballs.

He then started Jeremy Hermida with yet another fastball up and away and got a hard-hit fly ball with a fastball on the outside part of the plate.

That's when he went almost exclusively to his offspeed pitches. There's no better way to corral runaway velocity, after all, than by throwing offspeed pitches.

"I threw my slider," he said. "My slider and my changeup are almost the same speed. People sometimes confuse them because sometimes it's over here, and sometimes it's over here. It's my slider, but it looks like the same pitch."

Dan Uggla took back-to-back offspeed pitches for strikes, falling behind quickly. He then didn't chase a slider below the knees and fouled off a fastball up and a slider on the outer half of the plate before striking out on a slider up and away.

Cody Ross then saw offspeed pitches -- it's even more difficult to tell the two apart when they're up in the zone -- on five of the six pitches Ramirez threw to him. He swung and missed at an offspeed pitch down in the zone on a 3-1 count, and he swung and missed at a slider up in the zone for the third strike that ended the inning.

"Once he's able to get some swings, get some guys involved in the at-bat, that offspeed comes into play," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He's throwing hard, but once he gets guys swinging, the deception with the offspeed comes into play."

It was an important escape for a young pitcher who has allowed three earned runs in his last 2 2/3 innings after starting the season with 15 scoreless innings.

"I want to throw the best I can," Ramirez said. "I want to put 100 percent into it when I'm pitching, but too many things can happen in this game. I don't want to put my mind down or anything like that because something happened. I just try to do my best all the time."

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