The Rays had RHP Erasmo Ramirez work in relief Wednesday, supposedly more to let two other relievers face the top Twins hitters than to audition Ramirez for a bullpen role.
Either way, Ramirez said his task is the same — mix his pitches and throw strikes.
And he did both quite well in the 5-2 win, working six strong innings, allowing only three hits and no walks and striking out eight in Fort Myers.
"In my mind, it's the same game," Ramirez said afterward. "It's just going to be (later) in the game. I just have to go and do the same. Just go execute every pitch, don't try to overdo, overthrow. Whatever you have (that day), use it. Location is going to be more important than velocity. It worked. I mixed my pitches, and all four pitches I could throw for a strike. … I could pound the strike zone. That was a big deal."
Ramirez is slated to be the Rays' No. 5 starter, which manager Kevin Cash reiterated Wednesday. But with seven open dates in the first 40 days of the season, and with a bullpen short a man as it is realigned to cover the injury absence of closer Brad Boxberger for the first two months, moving Ramirez to the pen — a role he had previously with Seattle — is worthy of at least consideration.
Ramirez said the biggest adjustment is how much time it takes him to get ready, noting that as a reliever your warmup time is determined by how long the prior inning takes.
Ramirez did not accompany the team to Cuba since he was slated to start Wednesday and said it was "a surprise" to find out he was working in relief, though he got in the same amount of work.
Cash said that was specifically because the Rays wanted to see two candidates for bullpen jobs, nonroster major-league veteran LHP Dana Eveland and RHP David Carpenter, face the Twins starters.
Eveland, who could work long or short relief, started and allowed a leadoff single to Byron Buxton, who was erased on a double play, and nothing else over his two innings. Carpenter, signed in mid March after being released by the Braves, allowed a leadoff single that led to a third-inning run due to a throwing error by 3B Patrick Leonard but nothing else.
FAME GAME: Cash's jersey — which he didn't wear in favor of his usual pullover — the Rays' lineup card and the first-pitch ball (which Cuban-born OF Dayron Varona flied out on) are among the items from Tuesday's game headed to the Hall of Fame.
PRESIDENTIAL WORDS: Varona was one of the Rays players who went over to meet U.S. President Barack Obama before the game, and it was clear Obama was familiar with the Cuban-born outfielder's background.
Obama, per Rays interpreter George Pappas, said to Varona, "Mucho gusto (pleased to meet you) — welcome home."
Varona was touched by the gesture, telling reporters later, "That was something that left a big impression on me today because I've never had the opportunity to be that close to a president. That brought me a lot of satisfaction. And I hope somebody took a photo … so I can have it."
GAME DETAILS: Using a lineup of nonroster veterans and prospects, the Rays (9-9-1) beat the Twins 5-2. … C Mayo Acosta knocked in three runs with a pair of doubles as the Rays rallied from a 2-0 seventh-inning deficit against closer Glen Perkins. … Jake Hager, who missed all of last season due to right knee surgery, started at second base.
Information from Josh Vitale of the Charlotte Sun was used in this report.