It’s been an exceedingly forgettable year for Neil Ramirez, a man who broke out last year as one of the best relievers in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. Coming into 2015, Ramirez was a huge part of why you felt good about the Cubs’ pen and it’s impressive, quality depth.
The baseball gods make sure to quickly chasten for hubris.
Ramirez went down with a shoulder injury almost as soon as the season began (together with another important piece in the pen, Justin Grimm). That injury cost Ramirez more than two months, and, when he did return, his velocity was down and his command didn’t seem as sharp, eventually relegating him to something that looked awfully close to mop-up duty.
Ramirez made eight appearances after that return before once again heading to the disabled list in late July, this time with abdominal soreness. It was unclear when – or even if – Ramirez would return to the big league team this year.
But it looks like it could happen, as Ramirez has been sent out on a rehab assignment, making his first appearance yesterday with the Tennessee Smokies. Ramirez threw a scoreless inning, striking out one, giving up one hit and one walk.
I watched the appearance on MiLB.tv, and, although velocity wasn’t discussed, he did look very healthy. The walk wasn’t particularly wild, for what that’s worth. He was using both his fastball and slider, and I may have seen a curveball, too. It’s a good sign that he’s already using all of his pitches.
Given where Ramirez was after his previous return, I don’t want to get too excited until I can see him a little bit more. Mick Gillispie mentioned on the broadcast, though, that Ramirez said the current injury has given him even more time to rest the shoulder. So, you never know. Ramirez coming back with mid-90s heat and his vintage 2015 breaking pitches is absolutely possible.
We’ll see how soon Ramirez makes his next appearance, and if/when he’s bumped up to AAA Iowa. There’s only a week left in each minor league season, so, realistically, there won’t be many minor league appearances to go around. If he needs more than another week to be big league ready, he could continue working in Arizona, though it’s not quite the same thing as pitching in upper minors games.