The end of JC Ramirez’s Tommy John surgery rehabilitation is finally near.
The Angels right--ander has only one outing remaining, on Sunday at Class-A Inland Empire, before he is reinstated from the 60-day injured list early in the week. He said Saturday at Angel Stadium, where he has spent parts of the last few weeks between rehab outings, that he feels much closer to where he was before his elbow was surgically reconstructed in April 2018.
It was only a month ago that Ramirez was so far from his previous form — he went 11-10 with a 4.15 ERA in 27 games for the Angels in 2017 — the Angels asked him to extend his rehabilitation for an additional 30 days and decided to use him as a reliever.
An alteration in mechanics helped Ramirez rebound. He fell into bad habits during the early stages of his throwing program. He shortened his arm action, bringing his elbow up higher as he released a pitch, and immediately saw results. His fastball velocity increased into the 92-94-mph range, closer to his previous 95.5-mph average in the major leagues, and the angle of his pitches improved. His slider, especially, received a boost.
“It was the same slider that I had before and I was really, really happy about it,” Ramirez said. “If tomorrow I can continue to do that, being consistent throwing my slider, I’d say I’m good to go.”
Ramirez’s return will be a boon for the bullpen. The Angels have relied so heavily on their relievers, they more innings on their bullpen than every team in their division except the Seattle Mariners. Even accounting for their consistent use of an opener, the Angels have used their relievers for nearly 400 innings. That mark would still rank in the top 10 in the major leagues.
Adding Ramirez should help alleviate the burden that has been shouldered by rookie Ty Buttrey, closer Hansel Robles and veteran Cam Bedrosian, all of whom have pitched more than 48 innings.
“It’s been a long process,” Ramirez said. “Some days you feel good, some other days you don’t feel that good. But being in this position right now, where I know everything is going well, and if I continue to feel good I’ll be with the team, that’s a big thing for me.”
Two days after falling so ill he was told to stay home, reliever Noe Ramirez became sicker and was retroactively placed on the injured list because of a viral infection. He will be eligible for reinstatement Aug. 3. The Angels don’t think he will spend the whole week sick, but the lingering effects of a 16-inning game meant the team needed urgent bullpen help. By placing Ramirez on the injured list, the Angels were able to recall left-hander Dillon Peters for a start Saturday. … Nick Tropeano was optioned following his five-inning, seven-run performance Friday. The Angels also promoted Jose Rodriguez, a right-hander from Venezuela who signed with the Angels as a 17-year-old in 2012. He was a starter until this season, so he can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. He has a 6.49 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League but has struck out 39 batters in 34-2/3 innings for triple-A Salt Lake. … Left-handed starter Andrew Heaney has thrown for three consecutive days and not felt any discomfort in his inflamed shoulder. He is progressing, he said, but “not quite where I wanted to be. … I’ve dealt with this kind of [stuff] a lot, so I know how it goes. I know not to get excited about good days. I know not to get down on bad days. I know not to push too hard.” There is no timetable for his return. He will need some time to regain arm strength before activation.