Ramírez to make start in exhibition opener (and other notes)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Yefry Ramírez has been tabbed to start the Orioles’ first exhibition game Saturday afternoon against the Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.

“I feel great. Very excited when I was told about the news,” Ramirez said via translator Ramón Alarcón.

“It makes he feel really good having this opportunity, so I feel there’s a priority in order and I’m looking to try to take advantage of that.”

Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t say it, but you shouldn’t read too much into it. Ramírez hasn’t become the instant favorite to pitch on opening day in New York.

“Kind of where we were from lining guys up,” Hyde said. “We’ll have more stuff in the next couple of days about the first few games, but Yefry is going to start Saturday for us.”

With an unsettled back end of the rotation, any positive results can enhance a starter’s chances of heading north with the team. It’s only one game, the first against Grapefruit League competition, but there’s importance attached. Results can matter.

“There aren’t a whole lot of opportunities out there,” Ramírez said, “so I’m very thankful for that and hopefully things to well.”

Ramirez-Throws-Orange-Sidebar.jpgRamírez has thrown in the bullpen and pitched live batting practice on Tuesday, providing Hyde and his staff with some necessary looks early in camp.

“I watched his live the other day. He looked great,” Hyde said.

“I’m impressed. I’m excited to watch him. I know he’s excited to toe it up for us on Saturday and looking forward to watching him compete.”

Ramírez made 12 starts among his 17 appearances as a rookie in 2018, which ended with a 5.92 ERA and 1.531 WHIP in 65 1/3 innings. He averaged five walks per nine innings and improved command became a priority in offseason workouts.

“I think he wants to be a little more aggressive in the zone,” Hyde said. “Not shy away from contact, but attack hitters. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Said Ramírez: “I feel very comfortable right now. Definitely I can enjoy the results of the hard work that I put in. I’m looking forward to that start.”

Better consistency in his mechanics should cut down on the walks.

“To stop pulling myself toward first base and more toward home plate,” he said.

Has the camp experience been easier or more difficult with a new manager and coaching staff? Ramirez seems to be endorsing the changes with his answer.

“I think the difference is this new group is trying to get to know me,” he replied. “They’ve been asking me questions, trying to get my personality a little bit more, and hopefully we can start building a good relationship.”

* Infielder Alcides Escobar has made a favorable early impression since reporting to camp.

“He looks great,” Hyde said. “He’s in great shape. He’s got over nine years’ service time and he’s played on great teams in Kansas City. Those Kansas City teams, too, he was surrounded with awesome teammates, a great clubhouse.

“I know a lot of the guys who were on that team. I was fortunate to be with Wade Davis and Ben Zobrist parts of the last few years, and I know (Mike) Moustakas and (Eric) Hosmer. Just really quality people and great teammates and we talked a little bit about that in stretch. He’s going to add so much from that experience and being around that kind of environment. It’s great to get him around our young guys.”

* Dean Kremer remains shut down with a strained left oblique, but there has been improvement that’s inching him toward flat-ground throwing.

“All signs are real positive,” Hyde said. “Still rehabbing, obviously. That’s just something you don’t want to rush back, but the report I got this morning is all signs are looking up.”

Hyde also sounded encouraged by catcher Jesús Sucre’s progress in obtaining his work visa in Venezuela. He’s a significant absence in camp.

“It sounds like the arrow’s pointing up on that also,” Hyde said. “We don’t have any details on it, but it sounds like we’re moving in the right direction.”

* Left-hander Josh Osich, a waiver claim yesterday, is expected to arrive in Sarasota later today and be on the field Thursday morning.

* Infielder Jack Reinheimer returned to workouts after being hit on the left triceps yesterday during batting practice.

* Today’s workout included baserunning, pickoff and sliding drills, along with the usual rounds of batting practice. Heavy emphasis on defense and fundamentals leading up to the first exhibition game.

“I think we’re trying to set the tone,” Hyde said. “We’re going to get better as the camp goes along. I like our energy. We wanted to kind of send the right message to our players about what we expected during the fundamentals. The individual defense part of it has been great. The baserunning’s been great.

“We’re just looking to improve every single day defensively.”

* Hyde planned to meet with first baseman Chris Davis this afternoon and map out the first few weeks of the exhibition schedule. Get a feel for how many at-bats are coming his way.

“I like to sit down with the veteran guys,” Hyde said. “I think everybody’s different. I’ve seen it a lot of different ways. I know a lot of veteran guys who need a ton of at-bats, I know some guys that like to kind of ease into it and get a bunch of at-bats late. I’m getting to know these guys a little bit and we’ll talk about it and we’ll kind of play it by ear as camp goes along.

“Sometimes when guys are swinging the bat well they don’t want too many at-bats because they want to carry it into the season. I get that. Sometimes guys want to load up a bunch late right before the camp ends.”

* Ryan Mountcastle and Yusniel Díaz launched tape-measure home runs on Field 2, baseballs landing near parked cars outside the left field fence.

Drivers who pulled up that close didn’t really think it through.

* Hyde appreciates how the Orioles are celebrating the life of Frank Robinson with a No. 20 patch on their right sleeves.

“I was a kid when he was manager of the Giants,” Hyde said. “That’s when I started really loving baseball, so I remember him from those days. I’m obviously not old enough to remember watching him play, but I have so much respect for what he’s done in the game. I know how much he means to the city of Baltimore as well as the other cities he played in and managed in. So that was a tough day when he passed away and my heart goes out to his family.

“I know how much he impacted so many people, not only in the game but life in general.”

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