What manager Don Mattingly wants to see from Marlins rookie Harold Ramirez
Harold Ramirez has only been in the Majors a little more than two weeks, but he doesn’t hit like most typical young batters across MLB. In an era currently defined by three true outcomes with hitters hunting home runs, walks and strikeouts, Ramirez is a bit of a throwback. With an extreme closed stance and a penchant for punching balls into the opposite field, the 24-year-old rookie has inarguably sparked the Miami Marlins’ offense since he got his first Major League call-up before a May 11 game against the New York Mets.
His two hits Saturday against the Washington Nationals were textbook for the rookie. He came to the plate for the first time in the second inning at Nationals Park, worked a favorable count, got a pitch at the top of the zone and smacked it into right field. In the eighth, Ramirez got another favorable count and Patrick Corbin left him a pitch just outside the zone. The outfielder smacked it to right field again for a double. His hitting streak stretched to five games with his fourth multi-hit of the streak.
“I really feel a lot of confidence because I just have started to do what I did in Triple A,” Ramirez said. “In New York, I just felt too excited. I tried to do more than I do. Now I just feel very relaxed. Everything is good, so I’m happy right now.”
His newfound level of comfort at the plate has directly coincided with the Marlins’ offensive turnaround in the last week and a half. After averaging just 2.6 runs per game in its first 41, Miami (16-33) is averaging 4.9 in its last eight with a 6-2 record. Ramirez is batting .370 in the time frame and sits at .353 entering Sunday in Washington. On his five-game hitting streak, Ramirez has scored at least one run four times.
With only other one regular batting even .280, Ramirez gives the Marlins a much-needed steady presence. For the third game of its series against the Nationals (21-31) on Sunday, Miami even moved Ramirez up to the No. 2 spot in the order after previously using him exclusively in the bottom half of the lineup.
“He’s a guy that just kind of lengthens your order,” manager Don Mattingly said Saturday. “You start getting back in the six hole or so and he’s a guy that’s hitting the ball hard a lot, getting hits, getting on base. It kind of feeds everything. These guys don’t necessarily have to be hitting home runs, but when you’re getting action out there on the bases it gives guys more chances, puts a little more pressure on the pitcher and makes it just better for everyone.”
Ramirez’s offensive prowess puts Don Mattingly in a little bit of a bind. In an ideal world, utility player Rosell Herrera would be the centerfielder of choice from the active roster. Ramirez is playing too well for the manager to ever pull him out of the lineup, though, so Ramirez is adjusting on the fly to playing center.
There have been some growing pains — he misplayed a ball Friday, although the error was later changed to a hit — but he made his best play at the position in a 5-0 loss Saturday, sliding to rob Washington of a hit in the seventh.
Right now, he’s the best hitter in the lineup, though. The Marlins will take the good with the bad. They have no other choice.
“He’s been a great help. He’s been really consistent as far as putting good at-bats together — maybe not necessarily getting a hit every single time out there, but he’s around .300,” slugging third baseman Brian Anderson said Friday. “Just consistently squaring up the ball and putting balls in play, and that’s something we could really use in our lineup and he’s been doing a great job for us.”