07/04/07 12:26 AM ET
Ramirez strikes out side in debut
Yankees callup fans Cuddyer, Morneau and Ford in ninth
By Caleb Breakey / MLB.com
And then a big Major League debut smile.
At that moment, what remained of an announced crowd of 53,862 at Yankee Stadium suddenly wanted to know just who this Edwar Ramirez was, and how he struck out the Twins' Nos. 3-5 batters, including reigning American League MVP Justin Morneau.
Well, his teammates tried to explain.
Derek Jeter: "When you're out there for your first appearance or your first game, you're a little bit nervous, but he didn't seem like he was too nervous."
Bobby Abreu: "The kid threw the ball outstanding. Everybody just looked for his fastball and his changeup is like, going away. I think he just surprised everybody."
Jorge Posada: "Very good changeup. Came after them, threw a fastball and a slider and a changeup. It's only one time out there, but a very good start."
The fans, the cheers and the ensuing media crammed around his locker -- yes, not a bad opening act, especially for a pitcher who's been released twice in his career.
The 26-year-old Ramirez -- who became the first Yankees pitcher to strike out the side in his Major League debut since Stan Bahnsen in 1966 -- definitely showed the Yankees something in his one inning against the Twins in an 8-0 win on Tuesday.
Manger Joe Torre just wanted to get the right-hander into a stress-free situation. And he did that, as far as the score was concerned. But Ramirez faced the Twins' best, and he made them miss over and over and over.
He did it predominantly with his changeup, a pitch he taught himself to throw in 2004 while out of baseball completely and throwing to family and friends at a Miami-area high school. Ramirez's fastball comes in at around 91 mph, and the changeup hovers between 79-81 mph.
What's the movement like?
"That changeup is tough to detect," Torre said. "It just seems to stop, especially when you throw the ball 90 miles per hour."
The changeup bites down and in to right-handers and away from left-handers, a screwball of sorts. But the pitch hasn't always been successful. Ramirez remembers when he first started toying around with the pitch.
"Sometimes I threw it in the dirt, sometimes I threw it [up into] the cage," he said. "But I kept working and kept working."
Torre enjoyed watching the Twins whiff at the pitch, and because the game was one-sided at that point, Torre had more room to admire Ramirez's changeup.
After the last one popped into Posada's glove for a strikeout, the skipper knew this kid -- who had pitched last season with Edinburg, Texas, of the independent United League -- could be something special.
"You could see his confidence," Torre said. "He missed 2-2 to Morneau and then he threw it 3-2 and struck him out, and that's strictly confidence."
Ramirez's coolness on the mound was a bit deceiving, though.
He said the nerves kicked in when a bullpen coach told him he was taking the hill in the ninth. But Mariano Rivera had already told him, "Pitch here like you pitched over there," referring to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where Ramirez compiled a 0.67 ERA in 15 relief appearances, striking out 47 batters in 26 2/3 innings.
Rivera's words must have sunk in fast, as Ramirez pitched like he had in the Minor Leagues -- lights-out. Check the numbers again: one inning, 14 pitches, three strikeouts, and game over.
Ramirez's pep talk to himself on the mound couldn't have hurt, either.
"I talked to myself," he said. "I said, 'You want to stay here? That's it, you stay here. You want to stay here? You stay here, so let's go.'"
Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.