5/26/2008 06:32:00 AM

The Emergence (And Importance) Of Edwar Ramirez

Posted by Mark McCray |

Kristie Ackert/NY Daily News:

In his first stint in the majors, Edwar Ramirez simply lost his confidence.

The wispy righthander suffered a mound meltdown last July 20 against Tampa Bay - issuing four walks and a three-run homer without recording an out - after going 13 days without pitching, and wept in the clubhouse after he was told he was going back to the minors. He returned later in the season, but never found a niche in the bullpen and was left off the Yankees' playoff roster.

Now, the 27-year-old changeup specialist has found a regular spot in the Yankee bullpen. He is a steady hand who could be considered for the open eighth-inning setup role, now that Joba Chamberlain is leaving that behind to become a starter.

Ramirez earned the win Sunday, taking over for Chien-Ming Wang with the Yanks down 5-2 in the seventh and pitching 1-2/3 scoreless innings to set the stage for the Bombers' 6-5 comeback victory over the Mariners at the Stadium. It was Ramirez's 11th appearance of the season since being called up from Triple-A on April 29, and in 12-2/3 innings, he has yet to allow a run.

"Edwar was real big," Joe Girardi said. "He's pitched very well for us."

It's a dramatic improvement from last year's stint, in which Ramirez appeared in 21 games over the final three months of the season and came away with an 8.14 ERA.

The difference? "I have much more confidence now, much more," Ramirez said. "I think because Dave (Eiland, his pitching coach in Triple-A) is here and I can work with him five or six days a week, that helps a lot. And also because of what I have learned from working with Mariano (Rivera) and Pedro (Martinez), I am much more confident now."

Ramirez said he got a lot of encouragement from Martinez, the veteran Mets righty and fellow Dominican, while working out in Santo Domingo in the offseason. As Eiland had done, Martinez told Ramirez that his changeup was special, but that he relied too heavily on it and wasn't effectively using his fastball to set it up. Most importantly, Martinez encouraged him to take advantage of his position in the Yankee bullpen.

"He told me I should listen to whatever Mariano told me," Ramirez said. "And he said to work every day with my pitching coach."

"He's throwing strikes - we are working on that and he is doing that real good," Rivera said. "When he gets in trouble is when he doesn't throw his fastball. Now, he's throwing his fastball and with that, his changeup is more effective."
Edwar has now pitched 10.1 innings, given up just 6 hits while striking out 12 and walking 5. His ERA is sitting at a beautiful 0.00.

With Chamberlain leaving the 'pen for the starting rotation and an oft unreliable Kyle Farnsworth remaining there, an effective Edwar is more important to the Yankees than ever before. If he can continue to pitch the way he has been, the Yankees may have found a reliable 8th inning man not named Kyle Farnsworth...that in my book is HUGE for the Yankees.

Here's to many more scoreless innings for Edwar, and many more 8th innings that don't include Kyle Farnsworth.

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