ANAHEIM — AJ Ramos, a former All-Star closer and veteran of 377 major league games, figured he’d be up with the Angels early this season.
As the weeks passed and he continued to pitch for Triple-A Salt Lake, he eventually adjusted his expectations.
“When you don’t accomplish something in the timeframe that you think it should be accomplished, you can kind of mess up your mental state a little bit,” Ramos said. “I had to adjust that, and work from there, and then just try to get up here as quick as possible whenever I had the opportunity.”
It took until Thursday, just a few days past his 35th birthday, for Ramos to finally get the long-awaited chance to return to the majors.
“Man, it feels good,” he said. “Everyone’s working to get to this level. No matter how long you’ve been up here or if you’ve never been up here, you’re still trying to get up, so it feels good to accomplish that.”
Ramos had been flourishing as a reliever with the Miami Marlins, capped by a 40-save season in which he made the All-Star team in 2016. The next year he was traded to the New York Mets.
And in 2018, he had surgery to repair a torn labrum. Shoulder operations are much more risky than elbow operations, so anytime a pitcher has shoulder surgery his career is in jeopardy.
Ramos missed all of the 2019 season and he pitched just three games with the Colorado Rockies in 2020.
That’s why he was still unsigned until the Angels inked him to a minor league deal during spring training. Ramos said one of the reasons he didn’t sign earlier was because teams were unsure if he could last the whole season with his surgically repaired shoulder.
Once Ramos got over the disappointment of not getting called up to the Angels, he set his sights on simply getting through the entire season to prove himself for next year.
Ramos did that, pitching 53 innings in 55 games with Salt Lake. He struck out 76 and walked 26. He had a 5.26 ERA, which was better than the 5.82 ERA for the entire hitter-friendly Triple-A West (formerly known as the Pacific Coast League).
“I’m eager to see him play,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “He was really good when I saw him in Miami. Both times – I was in Tampa Bay, and even with the Cubs – I saw him, and he pitched a lot. He pitched in tight situations. And he was always very good. So I’m curious.”
Jaime Barria, who will start for the Angels on Saturday, has allowed 11 earned runs in 10 first innings in his starts. In all other innings as a starter, he has a 2.56 ERA.
Maddon said he’s been around pitchers with this issue before, and it’s difficult to find any sort of external solution.
“You try multiple different things, and it never really seems to matter,” Maddon said. “A different bullpen (routine). Put hitters standing in there. Talk about who’s coming up the first inning. Going out there earlier and throwing more. All the different things that you think makes sense logically, in order to get better at this and it really comes down to the player. They just have to do something internally different to get through that first inning. And then once he does, and he knows that he can, I think it’ll continue.”
The Angels placed right-hander Kyle Tyler on the injured list with a right toe strain, likely ending his season. Tyler, who started the year in Double-A, gave up four earned runs in 12-1/3 innings over five games. …
Jhonathan Diaz was recalled to take Tyler’s spot. Diaz had been optioned after making his major league debut last Friday. …
The Angel Stadium infield was covered by the tarp because of a rare sprinkling during the time batting practice was scheduled. The tarp was removed about 90 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
Angels (RHP Jaime Barria, 2-4, 4.77 ERA) vs. Mariners (LHP Tyler Anderson, 2-1, 3.38), Saturday, 6:07 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM