Last year for the Chicago Cubs, Neil Ramirez posted a 1.44 ERA (2.61 FIP, 3.48 xFIP) over 43.2 high leverage innings. He was, to put it mildly, a critical component of a bullpen that, by the end of the year, was one of the best in baseball.
Pitchers’ arms being as fickle as big league bullpens, Ramirez has contributed just three innings to the cause this year thanks to shoulder inflammation from early April. Ramirez, 25, has dealt with shoulder issues before, so it should come as no surprise that the Cubs have treated his injury very carefully. Although he last appeared in a game well over a month ago, Ramirez has yet to pitch competitively – either in an Extended Spring Training Game or even a simulated game – in Mesa, Arizona as he rehabs.
The good news, though, is that he is throwing off of the mound, and according to the Sun-Times, Ramirez will throw today for Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio as the team is headed to Phoenix for a weekend series against the Diamondbacks. The Sun-Times report, which digs into the bullpen as a whole, describes Ramirez as “making strong progress.”
Here’s hoping, then, that throwing for Bosio is simply about getting a final look before Ramirez either throws in an Extended Spring Training game, and/or (soon thereafter) heads out on a rehab assignment.
Even if the Cubs do consider bringing in a reliever externally like Rafael Soriano, there’s still going to be plenty of room in the pen for Ramirez when he’s ready to return. Perhaps, once again, the Cubs’ pen can be a strength down the stretch. And maybe that will mean a whole lot more in 2015.