The rookie pitcher and the rookie catcher walked side by side from the dugout to the bullpen for the pregame warmup. Yefry Ramirez prepping for his major league debut. Austin Wynns making his fifth start behind the plate.
The Orioles won’t recycle their “Come See the Kids” campaign from 2001. Ryan Kohlmeier, Brook Fordyce and Chris Richard - who qualified in the darkest days - aren’t walking through that door. But the present, in all its gory, also provided another glimpse at the potential future.
Ramirez might not stay long with Andrew Cashner expected to come off the disabled list for Tuesday’s start in D.C., pending the results of today’s MRI. The Orioles could choose to option him before Friday’s series opener against the Marlins and bring up a reliever to fill out the bullpen. But today’s game allowed them to take a closer look at Ramirez, who made one appearance in spring training and spent one day in Baltimore back in April.
The outing lasted 4 1/3 innings and 97 pitches, the conclusion born from back-to-back walks in the fifth. Mike Wright Jr. threw a wild pitch to advance Mookie Betts to third base and Xander Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly stuck Ramirez with a second earned run. The tally grew to three while Ramirez sat in the dugout on Rafael Devers’ RBI single after Wright issued his own walk.
Eduardo Núñez singled to increase the lead to 4-0 in the fifth and saddle Wright with is own run.
Ramirez allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six, and he also hit a batter. He left to a nice ovation from fans recognizing the significance of the moment and appreciating that he didn’t implode.
Composure wasn’t an issue for Ramirez, who ignored Andrew Benintendi’s bloop single in the first inning and advancement on Jace Peterson’s error and struck out Bogaerts. He hit Brock Holt with two outs in the second and struck out Sandy Leon, again with a changeup that’s his bread and butter pitch.
Betts drove a 93 mph fastball over the fence in right center field with one out in the third inning to break a scoreless tie - the sixth four-seamer out of seven pitches thrown during the at-bat and the 45th pitch in Ramirez’s major league career.
It happens to the best and worst of them. This is the Red Sox. This is Mookie Betts. He pretty much owns Camden Yards, with his 12 home runs easily the most he’s hit in any opposing ballpark.
Ramirez responded with another strikeout, blowing a 93 mph fastball past Benintendi. And he struck out Leon on a changeup to end the fourth after Holt singled.
A pitch count that climbed to 80 through four innings was working against Ramirez. So was Chris Sale.
The Orioles weren’t generous in their support of Ramirez beyond the encouraging words. No hits off Sale until Danny Valencia singled with one out in the fourth. Still no runs as the game moves to the bottom of the fifth. Two errors in the first three innings.
Sale had six strikeouts through three innings and Jonathan Schoop was the seventh after Valencia’s single, which extended his hitting streak to six games. Mark Trumbo walked to extend the rally, but Craig Gentry flied out.
Trumbo was grazed by a pitch with two outs in the second inning and Peterson walked with one out in the third and stole second base. Sale struck out the other three batters.
Though the Orioles were shaky again in the field, Wynns threw out Núñez trying to steal second base in the fourth inning and is now 3-for-3 nabbing runners.
The fastball that Ramirez brought to Camden Yards was in the 90-94 mph range. His changeup sat in the mid-80s and he mixed in the occasional slider, a pitch that scouts say needs work. Pretty much as advertised.
I haven’t heard anyone projecting Ramirez to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but he handled his spot today at an encouraging level. Debuting against the Red Sox and opposing Sale didn’t set him up to be a big winner, but the Orioles gladly will take what he offered under trying circumstances.
Can he hit?
Update: J.D. Martinez hit an opposite-field solo home run off Wright on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the seventh inning to give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.
Update II: Peterson’s sacrifice fly in the seventh off Brandon Workman scored Trumbo, who walked against Sale to lead off the inning, and reduced the lead to 5-1.