Neil Ramirez must have been surprised when the Cubs told him he would be optioned to Triple-A Iowa — and the decision had nothing to do with performance.
“A little bit,” Ramirez said Thursday at Wrigley Field, “but I know the organization had my best interests at heart.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association also looked out for Ramirez, quietly stepping in to help resolve the situation. Three days after the Triple-A timeout, the Cubs moved him to the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a sore triceps muscle, restoring his major-league salary and continuous service time.
Ramirez called the injury “nothing serious,” saying it wasn’t connected to some of the health issues that followed him in the Texas Rangers system. The 25-year-old right-hander had emerged as the team’s best reliever, a dynamic power arm putting up a 0.96 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 28 innings.
“I appreciate the organization for trying to take care of me,” Ramirez said. “I’m the kind of guy that wants to be out there every day. I don’t want to have to be babied.
“That’s why the stuff I’m doing with (athletic trainer PJ Mainville) and (strength/conditioning coordinator Tim Buss) is getting me where I need to be. Just take this down time here, get the issue corrected and get back out there and finish strong.”
After taking a break from the high-stress situations, Ramirez expects to go to the team’s complex in Arizona to continue his rehab and return to the Cubs bullpen in August.
The player to be named later in last summer’s Matt Garza trade could wind up being the most valuable piece in the deal. Ramirez is open to stretching out as a starter again if the Cubs change course and decide to give him a shot in the rotation.
“I’ve always said, whatever role I’m in right now, that’s what I’m going to try to be the best at,” Ramirez said. “I really like being a reliever. I love coming in and giving the team a big out if they need one. That part I love, and I love the starter routine, too. So whatever they want to do with me, I’m on board with it.”