Facing off against highly rated Jameson Taillon, the Tampa Yankees had their work cut out for them on Friday night. Thanks to Jose Ramirez, they didn't have to do much.
Ramirez outdueled MLB.com's No. 8 prospect by yielding two hits over six inningsas Class A Advanced Tampa blanked the Bradenton Marauders, 2-0.
The Yankees prospect walked and fanned 10, marking his highest strikeout total since he whiffed 11 for Class A Charleston last June 1. After surrendering 11 runs over his first two starts (9.90 ERA), Ramirez has posted a 2.86 ERA in his last four outings.
"I was more consistent being ahead of the hitters all the time," Ramirez said through teammate Kelvin Castro, who translated for him. "I was getting ahead with my first pitch and working well. All the pitches were located down. I was more focused on throwing the ball down and being consistent with the pitches I wanted to throw."
Ramirez (2-4) allowed all four of his baserunners over the first three innings, issuing walk in the first and second before giving up back-to-back one-out singles in the third. He worked around those hits by striking out Mel Rojas and Alex Dickerson -- the start of a streak in which he set down 11 straight batters.
The 22-year-old right-hander struck out at least one batter in all six innings, giving him 31 punchouts in 32 frames this year. He also excelled at keeping the ball in the infield, generating four groundouts compared to one fly ball.
"My slider was the best pitch I had today," Ramirez said. "Before, it was the chageup. Today it was good, but the slider was better.
"I made my pitches well. If I continue doing that, I'm going to strike out a lot of guys always."
Taillon ended up allowing two runs on four hits over six innings, recording his second straight quality start. The 20-year-old right-hander's ERA stands at 1.76, which ranks ninth in the Florida State League.
"I paid attention to him a little bit," Ramirez said. "I liked the way he was pitching. But I think I was mixing all of my pitches and locating better."
Signed as a non-drafted free agent on June 10, 2007, Ramirez has always shown an ability to miss bats but not necessarily to prevent runs. Over 103 1/3 innings between Charleston and Tampa last year, he struck out 99 but put together a 5.66 ERA.
The native of the Dominican Republic also has had some injury woes, as elbow problems caused his season to end in mid-August in both 2010 and 2011.
This year, Ramirez said his goal is to end the season with Double-A Trenton. And how does he plan to accomplish that?
"Being consistent, game after game and pitch after pitch," he said. "Being consistent always."
Rob Segedin produced all of Tampa's offense with a two-run single off Taillon in the second.