While vacationing in Europe in October, A.J. Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton ended up on stage at a karaoke bar in Latvia — the Funny Fox — singing the Temptations’ Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.
The crowd loved them.
“It was really kind of weird,” Ramos said. “The crowd was like, ‘These guys are amazing.’ We probably weren’t that great. But everybody was hammered.”
Ramos and Stanton aren’t planning an encore when the Marlins travel to Panama this weekend to face the New York Yankees in a pair of spring exhibitions. But the two world travelers are so pumped about Panama that they volunteered to go.
“See the world, enjoy the different cultures while we can,” said Stanton, who traveled with Ramos to Spain, London, Berlin and Latvia at the end of last season.
For Ramos, it’s also a chance to finally meet two of his favorite players, Derek Jeter and retired Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, who is being honored in his native Panama during the two-game set.
Ramos not only looks up to Rivera, one of the all-time great closers, but he also aspires to follow in his footsteps one day as a closer for the Marlins, or anyone else for that matter.
“That's one of my goals to do that,” said Ramos, who recorded 83 saves in four minor-league seasons but has yet to be given any save opportunities with the Marlins. “But I have to get there. I have to show I can compete at this level and get the job done.”
The 27-year-old Ramos, a 21st-round draft pick in 2009 out of Texas Tech, has proved to be a diamond in the rough and one of the Marlins’ most dependable bullpen arms over the past two seasons. He made 68 relief appearances a season ago, when his ratio of 9.67 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 10th among National League relievers and opposing batters managed to hit only .201 against him, which ranked 12th in the league.
He'll likely assume the same role again this season, as Steve Cishek remains the go-to guy in the ninth.
There are areas in his game that Ramos vows to improve.
“I’m looking forward to cutting down on the walks,” Ramos said. “I think I could have done a better job of that. And there were some outings when things went really bad. I need to try to control it a little better than I did last year, because when things started to get rolling, I didn’t exactly stop it. I kind of let it keep rolling. I wasn’t able to slow it down.”
Otherwise, Ramos intends to keep humming — on and off the mound.
Teammates say he’s the best singer on the team, by far.
“The guy can sing anything,” reliever Mike Dunn said. “He can rap. He can be-bop. He can sing country. And out of all the years I’ve seen rookies going up and singing, no matter how good or bad you do, you get booed. A.J. never got booed. He nails it.”
Ramos swears he’s just a shower singer. But it was his voice — not Stanton’s — that wowed the crowd in Latvia.
“It wasn’t too good when he sang,” Ramos said of his traveling and singing partner. “But he had some good dance moves.”
Notes• The Marlins trimmed 12 players from their spring roster Wednesday, including top pitching prospects Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani.
There were no surprises in the first wave of cuts.
Nicolino and DeSclafani were among five non-roster players reassigned to minor-league camp. The others: Jesus Sanchez, Colby Suggs and Avery Romero.
Michael Brady and Kyle Jensen were optioned to Triple A New Orleans, and Grant Dayton, Angel Sanchez, Jose Urena, J.T. Realmuto and Brent Keys were optioned to Double A Jacksonville.
The big-league camp roster now stands at 58 players.• The Marlins have hired Pat Shine to the team’s newly created position of major league administrative coach. Shine, who was associate head baseball coach at UC Irvine, will focus primarily on video replay. But manager Mike Redmond, who played with Shine in high school and college, said Shine also would throw batting practice and work with infield coach Perry Hill.
• Injured infielders Rafael Furcal (hamstring) and Jeff Baker (quadriceps) could return to game action as early as Friday.
“Both are feeling much better,” Redmond said. “They’re going to do some light activity [Wednesday], and if everything goes well, go through all baseball activities [Thursday]. I wouldn't rule out them playing in the next couple of days.”
Baker said he slipped coming out of the batter’s box in Port St. Lucie on Monday.
“The box was soaked, grabbed, and just kind of gingerly got down to first,” Baker said. “Just made sure I didn't blow the thing out and miss significant time. I’d like to play Friday.”• Henderson Alvarez gave up his first hit since his next-to-last start of last season, and the Marlins lost 3-1 to the Braves on Wednesday.
Alvarez, who fired a no-hitter on the closing day of the season and did not allow a hit in his first spring training outing, gave up a one-out single in the first on Wednesday to B.J. Upton.
"I'm glad to get it over with," Alvarez said of his hitless-inning streak. "I knew it was going to happen sometime."
Alvarez also gave up a home run to Evan Gattis.
The Marlins avoided the shutout when Rob Brantly hit a solo home run with two outs in the ninth.
COMING UP• Thursday: Marlins RHP Jacob Turner at Detroit Tigers LHP Drew Smyly, 1:05 p.m., Lakeland.
• Friday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler vs. New York Mets (to be announced), 7:05 p.m., Jupiter.