How Wilson Ramos plans to connect with Detroit Tigers’ young arms — and young catchers
For Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize, it takes a number of bullpen sessions and a couple of innings on the mound to get comfy with a brand-new catcher. Lefty Tarik Skubal — another young arm the company is relying on for long-term success — just requires an inning.
That’s a good idea, thinking about the Tigers signed a brand-new catcher recently.
It’s likewise useful that this brand-new catcher, Wilson Ramos, is up for the difficulty. The 33-year-old has actually currently spoken with seasoned starter Matthew Boyd, and he’s stired to fulfill up with Mize, Skubal and Matt Manning when pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 17.
“We have plenty of time in spring training to get to know each other,” Ramos stated Monday. “I’ve got good experience working with young guys, and I take my job very seriously. It’s happened in the past with me, and I’m 100% sure I will be ready.”
MIZE: Why Tigers’ Casey Mize understands precisely what he requires to enhance
SKUBAL: Tigers’ Tarik Skubal out for rotation area, equipped with more self-confidence, much better things
MANNING: Tigers’ Matt Manning has big league launching on his mind: ‘I’m all set to go’
The 11-year MLB veteran tasks as the Tigers’ Opening Day catcher, potentially with a more youthful catcher — such as Jake Rogers — as his backup. When he talked with supervisor AJ Hinch, among the conversation points was playing time.
Ramos, on a one-year, $2 million agreement, desires to be a daily catcher.
In 2015, the New York City Mets offered him 38 starts behind the plate in a 60-game period. He was the group’s main catcher throughout July and August. However after Robinson Chirinos was gotten at the trade due date, his use was cut to every other day or, sometimes, a cycle of 2 days on, one day off.
“In my career, I’m more consistent when I play (every day),” Ramos said. “I want that opportunity. (The Tigers) gave me the opportunity to sign with them, so that’s the only thing I want from them.”
RAMOS NOODLING: What the Tigers’ signing of catcher Wilson Ramos means for 2021
Teaching the next generation
With Ramos seemingly locked in as the starter, four catchers will compete for the backup role in spring training: Rogers, Grayson Greiner, Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase.
Rogers, a solid defender, turns 26 in April is and the Tigers’ No. 12 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Also, Ramos could meet up with Dillon Dingler — the team’s No. 8 prospect — in spring training. Dingler, 22, was selected out of Ohio State in the second round of the 2020 draft.
[ Tigers’ Jake Rogers has plan to work with AJ Hinch in spring: ‘I hope he gets on me’ ]
“Those kids, they’re growing up in this job,” Ramos said. “They need to learn. Same with me when I grew up. I got a couple of good guys with big names in baseball, and they taught me how to grow up. Now I can do the same to the young guys. It’s going to be fun to teach them.”
Communication is key
As much as Ramos looks forward to working with Mize, Skubal and Manning, he knows the importance of communication, and paying attention to the needs — even the little things — of pitchers.
“I’m happy to bring all of my experience to them, but the most important thing for us is getting good communication,” Ramos said. “I did it in the past. Maybe dinner with them or something like that.”
Mize, 23, made seven starts in his debut season last year, working with Austin Romine for three games, Greiner for three games and Haase once. Romine, who signed with the the Chicago Cubs in the offseason, developed a quick rapport with him.
Over the eight games of Skubal’s first big-league campaign, the 24-year-old threw to Romine four times and Greiner and Haase twice each.
“Pretty quickly for the most part,” Mize said Friday about connecting with a new catcher, “but if you’re with somebody for a long time, you can take it to that next level where you’re outthinking the other person. Then, it becomes really fun.”
“You can just ask questions in between innings,” Skubal said Thursday. “Just being comfortable enough and open enough to hear it and listen, even if it’s something they don’t think I’m doing a good job of. Just listening and saying, ‘OK, I’ll get better at that.'”
Down on one knee
In October 2016, Ramos underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. His recovery process kept him out until late June 2017.
Since then, Ramos has worked on limiting pressure on his right knee. Most recently, he decided to go down on one knee when the bases are clear. He believes shifting to one knee in certain situations also helped him set up a better target on pitches near the bottom of the strike zone.
“It was really tough in the beginning,” Ramos said. “Never in my career was I working behind the plate with one knee on the ground. Right now, it’s a little more comfortable. And that helped me to get those low pitches pretty good in the zone.”
Losing weight, adding elevation
To pair with a new stance for his 6-foot-1 frame, Ramos lost weight this winter. He was about 275 pounds last season but is now at 245. Ramos’ defense is the biggest concern, and it’s what has kept him from an everyday role.
That has been his focus this offseason.
“(I lost) a lot of pounds,” Ramos said. “That made me feel good, feel better behind the plate when I’m squatting, when I’m running. I’m really excited to start spring training soon because I want to show what I can do and how I feel.”
He has worked on his offense, too, tailoring his swing to elevate the baseball. In 2019, his 62.4% ground-ball rate was the worst in the majors. Last year, he improved it to 52.7%. Still, his ground-ball rate hasn’t been below 50% since 2011.
Ramos is a career .274 hitter. His best season came in 2016 with the Washington Nationals, in which he hit 22 home runs with a .307 batting average in 131 games. In 2020, Ramos had five homers in 45 games; his batting average plummeted to .239.
“That was a tough year,” he stated. “Right now, I already have more working on my swing, and I feel really good about what I’m doing. I feel really, really comfortable with my swing.”
Reflecting on kidnapping
In November 2011, just after the completion of his rookie season, Ramos was kidnapped in Valencia, Venezuela, while playing in the winter leagues for Tigres de Aragua. He was taken from his mother’s house at gunpoint, thrown into the back of a vehicle and driven 30 miles to an area near the mountains.
Three days later, he was rescued.
“I already turned that page,” Ramos stated. “Right now, I feel happy with my family, with my kids in my life. They make me happy every single day. But that was a tough situation over there. Really crazy. Days after I got rescued, it was tough to go out of my house. I was without sleep. Everything I heard during sleep made me scared. That was really tough.
“I simply wish to state thank God. I returned to my household and kids. Still frightened to return there. Among the important things I wish to see is my nation complimentary.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ Wilson Ramos ready to play, connect with prospects
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.