IronPigs pitching coach Cesar Ramos handles daily curveballs
Reading – IronPigs manager Anthony Contreras and pitching coach Cesar Ramos visited Tyler Cyr’s Buffalo hotel room last month to deliver the news every minor league player wants to hear: Pack your bags . You are going to the big leagues.
These conversations often take place at impromptu times and places.
Contreras and Ramos told Michael Plassmeyer the news of his first major league promotion the following day at a bus stop.
“No matter the setting,” Contreras said, “it gives you chills when it’s the first time for a player.”
These conversations are the fun part of being a professional coach or manager.
Most of Ramos’ time in his first season as a minor league pitching coach was spent trying to figure out who will pitch that next game, that next inning.
Parent club necessities are always the top priority, but the 2022 IronPigs season was way beyond what a normal Triple-A year looks like.
Ramos has worked with 50 pitchers through 134 games, including 23 who have made at least one start, plus eight MLB rehabilitators and 15 who are on the disabled list.
This allowed Lehigh Valley to be 15th or worse among 20 International League teams in ERA, walks, wild pitches, balks, WHIP, strikeouts, slapped hitters, and shutouts.
But considering Plassmeyer’s recovery draft among the six IronPigs pitchers who received their first MLB promotion, Ramos has done wonders.
“I couldn’t be more impressed with how well he’s been able to maneuver that pitching stick,” Contreras said, “one, because of his size; and two, this is his first year coaching in the minor leagues.
Ramos’ path to this point has helped. The 38-year-old spent 13 seasons as a pitcher, including eight-year stints in the majors with four organizations, before concluding his playing days in 2017 with the IronPigs.
He spent last season working with rehabilitated pitchers at the Phillies’ minor league complex in Clearwater, Fla.
Ramos’ balanced demeanor has prevented him from launching his computer prints skyward at some point this season.
“Maybe last year prepared me for this year,” Ramos said. “But keeping them sharp is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to maneuver. At one point we had 17 or 18 relievers [on the roster]. Trying to get them work within a week, being able to keep their workload balanced has been a challenge.
There have been several six-game series this season when the IronPigs have gone five bullpen games, when a true starting pitcher hasn’t been available due to needs, injuries, trades, etc. of the Phillies.
This turns a day-to-day operation into a round-by-round situation.
While everyone was thinking about Bryce Harper’s appearance in rehab on August 23 at Coca-Cola Park, Ramos and Contreras were trying to figure out who was going to start this series against Gwinnett.
“It’s a roll of the dice when a bunch of guys are called and there’s a lot of movement overhead,” Contreras said. “We’ll piece it back together.”
That’s exactly what Ramos did with Plassmeyer, who came to the IronPigs when the Phillies traded Triple-A receiver Austin Wynns to the Giants.
Plassmeyer posted a 7.38 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 11 starts for Sacramento, the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, before the trade. Since then, the southpaw has a 2.66 ERA in 14 games with Lehigh Valley and a scoreless appearance in his only major league outing.
The 25-year-old found a mechanical fault late in his time this year with Sacramento, but the bulk of his corrective work came while working with Ramos.
Jeff Singer, Michael Kelly, Mark Appel, Nick Duron and Cyr were other first-time call-ups thanks in part to Ramos.
Equally important, however, Ramos gave each of the other 44 pitchers the best possible scenario to pursue development.
“There’s plan A until the first pitch happens,” Ramos said. “Then we will see how it goes. You follow the course of the game. This directs the ship, in which direction it should go the rest of the night.
“For me, Bullpen games are fun. We’ve been playing chess since the first guy. We are constantly communicating [with pitchers] throughout the game, putting them in the best position to succeed. But the scenarios will not always be there [their] foster.
“The analyses, all the numbers behind the scenes, the people outside the dugout know those numbers. But the beauty of minor leagues is putting guys in awkward situations to succeed. It’s part of their development.
Ramos’ growth as a pitching coach is evident with every game.
Bailey Falter is a strong-minded person. It’s the only way to explain his progress this season despite being ejected six times by the Phillies. He has a 1.91 ERA in nine starts with Lehigh Valley, a 4.02 ERA in 15 games (11 starts) with Philadelphia.
Some of these promos were scripted; others came when necessitated by injuries to other Phillies pitchers. The southpaw had up to 10 days off, as few as three. He was stretched out. He was a reliever. Rinse and repeat.
Ramos’ steady hand has helped Falter and other pitchers when their roles have changed throughout the season.
“That’s what you go through as players,” Ramos said. “There is a very small number of players who are everyday big leaguers. For pitchers, it’s even more difficult unless a starting pitcher is [Clayton] Kershaw or the [Walker] Buehler of the world. Normally it’s more of a top-down process.
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“Our rotation is hard to break in the big leagues. Bailey could be a middle or front-row starter elsewhere, but he’s fulfilling his role this season.
Ramos also helped 30-year-old Mark Appel earn his first MLB promotion. Contreras was able to evoke a special moment in the Coca-Cola Park clubhouse to announce the moment of Call in front of the team.
Highly rated prospect Griff McGarry was promoted to Triple-A level for the first time last week. He was relieved to know that Ramos was ready to help the right-hander take off, especially with his continued slider work.
“Day 1, they immediately asked me, ‘How did your slider feel? “Said McGarry. “I was like, ‘It’s okay. Let’s go.'”
If Ramos is on a major league coaching staff, he will have earned it largely because of what he has done this season.
“To be able to work alongside him, to see how patient he is,” Contreras said, “how he can dissect a pitcher, help them navigate through a season, a game, it’s very impressive. You can see why he has been so successful in his career.
Morning Call reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or [email protected]