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, all the time

If you turned tonight’s Yankees/Twins game off before the top of the ninth, you missed out. The Yankees manhandled the Minnesotans to the tune of an 8–0 win. Chien-Ming Wang honestly didn’t have his good stuff, but he relied on the ground ball to get him out of jam after jam. His final line is impressive (7 IP, 0 runs, 4 hits, 4 walks, 3 Ks), but he really didn’t pitch that well, he just made timely pitches. He completely lost the zone for stretches at a time, and his defense really picked him up. Cano, Philips and Jeter turned a pretty double play, as did A-Rod, Cano and Philips. Posada caught Josh Barlett stealing for the first time this year (he was 16 for 16 in SBs coming in).

On offense, Abreu continued his hot hitting from the 7 hole, and Derek Jeter proved he belongs at #3. Jeter’s clutch gene has always been a bit under-utilized in the #2 slot, having him bat third, in front of A-Rod, gets him fastballs to hit. He’s taking advantage. He had three more hits tonight, and 2 more RBIs. If Jeter remains planted in that spot, he’s going to knock in 100 runs, and Melky Cabrera is a perfect #2 hitter, if you ask me.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about all of the Yankees who didn’t make their major league debut tonight, I’m going to devote the rest of this post to the kid (I’m using that term loosely here, he’s 26) pictured at the top of the post, Edwar Ramirez.

The Yanks brought the slight right-hander in to pitch a meaningless ninth. Of course, when he came in I gave the obligatory “Who the f is this guy?” Then they showed his numbers at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre:

26.2 innings, 13 hits, 9 walks, 47 strike outs, 0.67 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, batters hit .144 against him.

Astounding numbers. It turns out Edwar was almost out of baseball entirely, but went to an independent league, and worked his way back to the minors. Obviously, with numbers like that, I was expecting to see a fireballing kid. I was a little surprised to see his fastball in the 91-92 MPH neighborhood, and I just didn't get how he racked up K numbers like that. Then he got Michael Cuddyer down 0-2, and unleashed a wicked, wicked change-up.

The change was 79 MPH, but it wasn't the speed that made Cuddyer look foolish as much as it was the delivery and the movement. The ball literally dove into the dirt. Justin Morneau, the reigning A.L. MVP stepped up next. He suffered the same fate. Ramirez made him look silly on a change, the third he’d seen in the at bat. Up next was Lew Ford, and he never had a chance. He almost fell over swinging at Edwar’s change.

I feel like things like this happen to reward the fans who gut out all of the tough games. The fans who stick in there to the bitter end. Edwar isn’t what you’d call a blue-chip prospect. He’s too old for that. He’s a reclamation project. He’s a guy that was never supposed to make it this far. He’s what Mo Rivera was until one day he learned to relax on the mound and picked up about 6 MPH on his fastball.

Who knows, maybe the book will be out on Ramirez tomorrow, maybe the next time he’s used he’ll give up 5 earned runs. Maybe there isn’t enough season left for Joe to truly trust him, so he’ll rot on the bullpen bench and only get into meaningless games. Then again, maybe he’s figured it out. Maybe that change is just un-hittable and he’s going to turn into the 1996 version of Mo for this team. Or K-Rod to Troy Percival for the Angels in ‘02.

The kid has a low-nineties heater with some tail to it, a low-to-mid-eighties tight little slider, and that devastating change-up in the high seventies. I don’t know if we’ll ever hear from him again, but tonight reminded me, yet again, why I love baseball so much. Something you’ve never seen before can happen every night. And young kids, playing the game they’ve grown up playing can turn into heroes on a nightly basis. If only for the night, Edwar gave me something to look forward to in the coming days. I’m going to watch tomorrow and hope he gets in the game. That’s what it’s all about, the small little wrinkles, the things to watch for, the kids to root for. Last year it was Melky, maybe this year it’ll be Edwar. The great unknown on a $200M team.

Player of the Game: Edwar Ramirez.

by Brian on Jul 4 2007
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