FORT MYERS, Fla. — Edubray Ramos, dejected after four rough weeks, left Citizens Bank Park last June and headed to the minor leagues. Ramos said he had never been through a stretch like the one he faced last summer when he retired just four of the 15 batters he faced in five games.
His confidence, Ramos said, was missing. The second-year righthander spent a month at triple A and came back a new pitcher, a dominant reliever who found his edge.
"I just said, 'Screw it. I already went through the worst part so I'm just going to come up and do my thing,'" said Ramos, 25. "I knew I was capable of working hard and throwing my good stuff. I got on the mound without any fear and knew what I could do."
Ramos finished the season with a 2.70 ERA over the final two months. He had 37 strikeouts and just six walks in 26 2/3 innings over his final 24 appearances. His slider — a pitch that was hammered before he was sent down — could be trusted again.
The pitch moved sharper than it had in June and Ramos threw it more, nearly 70 percent of his pitches in September when opponents batted just .088 against it. It had more horizontal movement and came from a better release point. The pitch was a stark contrast from the fat one he had served up three months earlier.
"It was basically two things," Ramos said of his slider. "Number one, I was lacking confidence and I worked on that and got my confidence back. Number two, I was attacking the hitters right away. I was getting ahead in the count from the get-go and that's always big for the pitcher."
The Phillies plan to carry eight relievers, and five of those roles have been claimed. Ramos seems to have a hold on one of the final spots. He has allowed just four baserunners this spring and has 10 strikeouts in five innings. The success he found after his stint in the minors has carried over.
Ramos worked in triple A with IronPigs pitching coach Dave Lundquist, who helped rebuild his mentality. Lundquist told him to get on the mound and push his struggles away, reminding Ramos how he dominated double A and triple A just a season earlier. The pitcher said he returned to the majors "like nothing happened."
"Sometimes when you're going through a little bit of a tough time, you just lose confidence in what you're doing," Phillies pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "When you lose confidence, you're not really throwing the ball. You're just placing it, aiming it. I sensed that. It was almost like he was just throwing the ball and there was some doubt in there."
Kranitz sat in the Phillies' dugout Sunday as Ramos started the eighth inning with consecutive strikeouts. The coach did not even need to see the location of the strike to know it was a good pitch. He just looked at the mound and saw a confident Ramos standing on the rubber.