Physically, the worst thing to happen to Frisco RoughRiders right-hander Neil Ramirez in his pro career has been some shoulder fatigue.
But the mental fatigue? That's another story.
Following a rocky 2012 campaign that began in Triple-A Round Rock and included a return to Frisco, the Rangers' 2007 first-round pick has worked on reversing his mind-set this season and gotten some positive results -- if an All-Star selection, team-high win total and sub-4.00 ERA are any indication.
"I just try to stay positive with everything after last year," said Ramirez, who is 9-3 with a 3.33 ERA over 17 starts for the RoughRiders this season.
Every player encounters some potholes on his career path, but Ramirez's 2012 campaign (8-13 with a 6.28 ERA and a career-high 47 walks) was somewhat baffling after his performance up to that point.
Texas took Ramirez as a supplemental first-round pick (44th overall) in 2007 out of high school in Virginia Beach, Va. He was one of the Rangers' five first-round selections that year as the team made a conscious effort to hoard high school pitchers -- taking eight in the first 13 rounds.
Ramirez did scuffle a bit in his first full year at Class A Hickory, finishing 3-6 with a 4.75 ERA but learned from the experience and went 10-8 with a 4.43 ERA in his second go with the Crawdads in 2010, cutting down his walks and more than doubling his strikeouts.
He pitched at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, Frisco and Round Rock in 2011, going 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA overall. But in 2012, the aforementioned shoulder fatigue set in, which took a toll physically and mentally, culminating in a demotion from Round Rock back to Frisco.
He took stock after the season, realizing how negative he had become and the impact it was having, and he set out to correct that in Spring Training. Advice on visualization from notably upbeat Rangers lefty Derek Holland helped, and Ramirez now appears to be back on the beam.
"I've talked about it several times -- the mental side of the game is something I've really taken pride in this year," Ramirez said.
His new approach, which includes some mechanical adjustments, has Ramirez looking more like his old self. He has struck out 113 batters and walked 38 in 92 innings this year, posted four straight victories from June 5-20, picked up league Pitcher of the Week honors and got the win in the All-Star Game on June 25.
"He's been real good," Frisco manager Steve Buechele said. "I don't expect anything but good things from Neil the rest of the year. He's been a real bright spot for us."
Even though he is 0-1 in his last two starts and has been scratched recently with shoulder soreness, Ramirez feels he has the mental approach to keep such minor setbacks from becoming major.
"You just want to go out there, if you have a bad outing, and realize it's just one day in the process of getting better every day and getting to where you want to be," Ramirez said. "Don't let one day take you off your plan, and that's the kind of approach I'm taking this year."
Carpenter's call: St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter was scheduled to start Monday night for Springfield in its game with the Arkansas Travelers. Brandon Hynick was slated to start for Arkansas, which has two starters on the disabled list and used three relievers in Sunday's loss.
Local Gentry: A rehab start by the Rangers' Craig Gentry was not enough to help Frisco get by San Antonio on Sunday. Gentry walked and scored on Brett Nicholas' homer in the first inning, but the Missions rallied for a 4-2 victory on Lee Orr's two-run single in the seventh and RBI hits by Johan Limonta and Jake Blackwood in the eighth.
Oklahoma OK: The Tulsa Drillers ended an eight-game losing streak with consecutive victories at Arkansas on Friday and Saturday, then returned home to post their first win of the month at ONEOK Field. Tulsa scored runs in all but two innings to beat Northwest Arkansas, 6-5, in its third straight victory.