PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays lefty reliever Cesar Ramos often sits quietly in his corner of the clubhouse, watching television and keeping to himself.
And that's exactly how All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria remembers him when the two lived together six years ago at Long Beach State, along with Rockies All-Star Troy Tulowitzki.
The trio shared a three-bedroom apartment off campus with another roommate, and Longoria's bed was a futon in the living room, "so everybody always saw my business."
But Longoria said Ramos usually stayed in his room on his computer.
"He's still a pretty quiet guy; he's always been just the kind of go-about-his-business thing, which bodes well for me, because he's kept his mouth shut and just worked," Longoria said. "I think that's how you gain respect around here, just kind of go about your own thing."
Ramos, 26, acquired from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade, lets his pitching do the talking, and the Rays are excited about what he could bring to their revamped bullpen.
Boasting a four-pitch repertoire (fastball, changeup, slider, curve), Ramos doesn't overpower hitters, but his command and calmness, along with slight deception in delivery, make him capable of retiring left- and right-handed hitters in key moments.
Manager Joe Maddon said scouts were high on Ramos, but "he's honestly exceeding everything that I had heard."
"What I like about him is he's really, really calm out there," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "Even if he hasn't been in too many bad spots (this spring), he maintains his composure, maintains his poise and seems to make a quality pitch when he needs to."
Ramos said it's "kind of funny how it worked out," as the Rays were the team that initially drafted him in the sixth round in 2002 out of El Rancho (Calif.) High. But Ramos said it was important to become the first in his family to graduate college, a tribute to his parents, Maria and Ramon, Mexican immigrants who worked in the garment district in East Los Angeles.
So Ramos attended Long Beach State, where he joined a rotation with future big-leaguers Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas. He finished his college career ranking third in starts and second in all-time wins, with his roommates, the Dirtbags' left side of his infield, Longoria and Tulowitzki, a reason why.
"It's crazy to see those two guys being All-Stars and future MVPs," Ramos said. "You would never (have) thought; you knew they were good, but who would have ever thought they were going to be (that)? I'm happy for them and glad to be able to watch (Longoria) play every day.
"He's still Evan to me; he's still the same guy. Just now, to everybody else, he's a star. But he's still my old college roommate."
And after spending most of his first five pro seasons in the minors, Ramos said he's starting to feel more like he belongs in the big leagues. He made his first opening-day roster with the Padres last season, beating out current Rays reliever Adam Russell, and appears likely to break camp with Tampa Bay this season.
Even so, Ramos will maintain his home near his family in East Los Angeles, where he'll continue his other job, being "the fun uncle" to his nephew, Matthew, 3, and niece, Deanna, 8.
"They keep me busy in the offseason," Ramos said. "I pick them up from school, always want to go to McDonald's, Disneyland or for ice cream. I'm their guy to go to."
And when the phone rings in the Rays bullpen this season, Ramos hopes he's a guy Maddon goes to.
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.