Ramirez learning ropes with Tigers
Outfielder happily soaking up Major League exposure
KANSAS CITY -- This time, Wilkin Ramirez has had the chance to stick around as a Tiger for a little while. More games like Thursday -- despite Detroit's 7-4 loss to Kansas City -- could keep him around for quite a while.
When Ramirez was twice called up earlier this year, his stays lasted only a day or two. Last month, he made what amounted to a one-day commute up Interstate 75, called up from Triple-A Toledo before the game and sent back afterward.
Now that he's here for all of September, he's had the chance to not only watch more games, but watch the daily routine of a Major League player. In the process, he's picking up quite a bit about what it'll take for him to make the final jump to the big leagues. The Tigers, in turn, are learning a little more about him.
"A lot of guys here are veteran guys," Ramirez said recently. "You learn from them. You get a lot of good stuff. Now that I'm here longer, I can learn even more. You learn a lot of stuff if you pay attention."
As a raw player, he has a lot to learn. As an athlete, however, he has the kind of ability that makes him so intriguing to watch and see what he can do if he can apply what he learns into his own game.
"He looks more polished," manager Jim Leyland said Thursday. "He looks more comfortable. But you really won't know until you see if they start working him over a little bit."
That ability showed Thursday. His fifth-inning line drive over the head of center fielder Mitch Maier sent Ramirez's 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame flying full speed around first base, then second on his way to his first Major League triple. He made it in without a challenge, setting up Gerald Laird's sacrifice fly.
"He did well," Leyland said. "He hit a missile."
An inning later, Ramirez's one-out single through the middle drove in Brandon Inge before Laird's single advanced him to second.
With Adam Everett at the plate, Ramirez took off for third. It wasn't a hit-and-run play, but a straight steal attempt. He had so much of a jump that he was dashing into third while Alex Gordon was still on the ground, having made a diving attempt at Everett's double down the left-field line.
Ramirez simply hopped over Gordon and rounded third on his way to scoring easily.
"That was pretty interesting," Inge said.
Ramirez isn't exactly in a role down the stretch, but his ability makes him intriguing enough that Leyland has tried to pick and choose his spots to use the 23-year-old against left-handed starters.
The Blue Jays will start three lefties during the upcoming four-game series now that David Purcey will pitch in Roy Halladay's place next Monday, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him again at least once this weekend. He might not do much, but as Leyland points out, he has a chance to do something big.
"I'm trying to stay healthy and try to make some stuff happen, maybe win some games," Ramirez said. "Could be running, could be a ground ball, whatever it is to help these guys make it to the playoffs."
It goes back to something Leyland has said all along about Ramirez: He's either going to make it big, Leyland believes, or he isn't going to make it.
That came before this season, when Ramirez endured some growing pains in his jump from Double-A Erie to Toledo. While his batting average dropped from .303 to .258 and his extra-base power dropped somewhat, he swiped 33 bases in 43 attempts, including 27-for-34 before the All-Star break.
He hit worse after the break, but his power numbers improved, and his at-bats seemed to get better as he learned to lay off some breaking pitches off the plate.
"That's what I'm trying to work on," Ramirez said. "I'm trying to cut down on strikeouts, be patient and wait for my pitch."
Time will tell what his work means for the Tigers long-term. For now, the Tigers are hoping it means a jolt every now and then when he plays.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.