NEW YORK -- Edwar Ramirez was home during the offseason when he bumped into Pedro Martinez, a pitching icon in their shared winter home of the Dominican Republic.

It turned out, Ramirez had also found one of his fans. The Mets right-hander, currently working his way back from injury, had seen some of Ramirez's outings and was impressed.

"[Martinez] told me that I have a very good changeup, but I have to use the fastball, too," Ramirez said. "Last year I was using my changeup too much. He told me, 'You have to work different.'"

That advice, also echoed by Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland, has been serving Ramirez well through the early part of the '08 season. Ramirez has not allowed a run in 16 combined relief appearances between the Yankees and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, including 8 2/3 innings for New York.

"He's pitched very well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He had a lot of success at times last year, and at times, he ran into trouble. For Edwar, it all starts for me with being able to control his fastball.

"His changeup is the pitch that gets people to swing and miss, but you have to be able to use your other pitches to set up the changeup and you have to be able to spot the fastball."

Ramirez got his first taste of Major League duty with the Yankees down the stretch last season, including striking out the side in his big league debut on July 3. This year, he has allowed only four hits and four walks and has struck out 10.

Using his fastball more and also throwing a slider and cutter, Ramirez has learned to make the tweaks, though it was his devastating changeup that rescued him from the independent leagues in 2006, when the Yankees discovered him pitching for Edinburg of the United League.

Since then, Ramirez -- twice cut by the Angels' organization -- has whiffed 41 in 29 2/3 career innings at the big league level, ranking fourth among Major Leaguers since the start of the '07 season with 12.44 strikeouts per nine innings.

"I feel good," Ramirez said. "Dave and I work with my mechanics every day in the bullpen, and every day we work with the same routine. I knew if I pitched and pitched, I knew I'd do a good job."