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March 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Ramirez using college experience to guide him in first professional season

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Noe Ramirez might not have been drafted as high as he was had he not taken advantage of an opportunity to be a spot starter in his freshman year at Cal State-Fullerton

Ramirez, the Red Sox fourth round pick in the 2011 draft, prepared for his first season at Cal State-Fullerton as a closer because his coach loved his tough mentality. But about two weeks into his freshman season, their number two starter was struggling, so Ramirez’s coach gave him a shot. He took advantage, and has worked as a starting pitcher ever since.

Ramirez did a lot of growing up as a player in college.

“I’d say every single part of my game improved [at Fullerton,]” said Ramirez, “Everything I needed to become a good baseball player improved there.”

Ramirez learned a lot about the mental game at Fullerton, which he now considers one of his strongest attributes.

“I’m a tough competitor. I don’t let anything phase me,” he said

Ramirez’s arsenal includes a fastball, a changeup, and a slider. He considers the change to be his strongest pitch, while he said the slider is still a work in progress. In high school, Ramirez threw a curveball, but his coach in college changed it to a slider.

“It’s more of my arm angle. My coach thought the slider would be better. It’s something that I definitely need to work on, keeping it tighter. It’s more of my release point—I know it’s wrong. I just need to go back to repetition.”

Just because the slider is still a work in progress, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t throw them, saying, “They’re still effective. It just changes eye levels. It’s a different level now, and I just have to adjust.”

Ramirez is adjusting to life in professional ball now, but said he was able to handle the previous adjustment to college hitters well.

“[College hitters] are a lot smarter taking pitches. They’re a lot stronger; they’re more complete players. Our mistakes [as pitchers] are crucial. A lot of hitters really take advantage of them in college compared to high school.”

Ramirez is going through this all over again, but on a professional level. Now, he has the advantage of wooden bats on his side.

“I’ve really been striving to throw in the inner half of the plate against hitters. I have a lot of movement on my ball, so that’s something I need to control a little more: the movement on my ball and just location.”

Ramirez’s biggest challenge last year as a junior at Fullerton was dealing with adversity. He still wanted to be a leader for his team despite the distractions of being a player that was talked about in relation to the upcoming draft. He wanted to “keep his head straight and set an example for the younger guys” because as a freshman, he appreciated the older players who set strong examples for him.

Since joining the Red Sox organization, his biggest adjustment has been becoming a professional. “There are a lot of expectations out here that you really need to strive to meet. That’s a big deal for me,” he said.

The biggest thing Ramirez is working on this spring is continuing to improve his slider. He is unsure of where he will begin the 2012 season, but this does not concern him.

“I’m just going on about my business as myself. They drafted me because they liked me—they liked something about me, so I’m just going to be who I am.”