New reliever completes unlikely journey

Phils Edubray Ramos 1200x800 Feb 25_
Phillies' Edubray Ramos.

SAN FRANCISCO - Four years ago, when Edubray Ramos was a teenager in Venezuela painting cars and cleaning floors, this day was inconceivable. The day that Ramos walked into a big-league clubhouse to find a No. 61 Phillies jersey with his name on the back.

"I was out of baseball," Ramos said through an interpreter. "It was impossible for me to imagine that. It's a beautiful moment for me."

Ramos, 23, did not receive a signing bonus when the Phillies plucked him from an adult baseball league three years after the St. Louis Cardinals had released him. Now, not only is he in the majors, but Ramos is a legitimate prospect to one day become a closer.

He joined the Phillies bullpen on Friday, when the team placed Andrew Bailey on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Ramos had a 0.38 ERA in 15 games with triple-A Lehigh Valley. He started the season at double-A Reading, and in 382/3 minor-league innings this season he was dominant. Ramos struck out 41 and walked just four.

"He's been pitching in high-leverage situations," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're going to throw him right out there and find out."

Ramos' journey to AT&T Park was incredible. David Lundquist, the triple-A pitching coach, told Ramos the news Thursday. Veteran reliever Edward Mujica translated it for Ramos. The young righthander did not believe it.

"Especially because Mujica was translating for me," Ramos said. "I thought he was fooling with me."

No one would believe Ramos' story. He had a 9.53 ERA in 10 games as a 17-year-old reliever for the Cardinals' Venezuelan summer league team. St. Louis shuttered its Venezuela operations after that season, and the organization released Ramos. His career over, he took jobs to help pay medical costs for his mother, who had problems with her feet.

He still played baseball, but it was not professional. He even played softball. A buscon, someone who helps find players in Latin America and arrange pro deals for them, arranged for Ramos to attend a Phillies tryout in late 2012. Teams typically do not sign released players in Venezuela. The Phillies took a chance.

Ramos was stronger, having worked his jobs outside of baseball. And, he said, he possessed a better understanding of what it took to succeed in pro ball.

Just clean floors for a living, and perspective is easier to attain.

"It definitely helped mature faster than I would have if I would have stayed in baseball," Ramos said. "When you're out of baseball, you realize how hard things can be. So when I came back to baseball, I made sure I took advantage of the opportunity to stay in the game."

He has thrived ever since. Ramos throws in the mid-90s, and his fastball can reach 97 mph. He started 2015 at high-A Clearwater, and it took just 14 months for him to ascend to the majors.

"He throws strikes and he's got a good slider," Mackanin said.

Ramos, one day, wants to be a closer.

"That's the role I had in the minor leagues," he said. "It's a role I'd like to have up here, too. But I really want to be ready for that. I don't want to jump into it without any preparation. I want to be ready for it."

He will have a mentor in Jeanmar Gomez, a fellow Venezuelan, who exudes calmness. Ramos is the seventh Venezuelan player on the Phillies' 25-man roster. He called his parents, then his brothers, who helped him through the tougher moments.

"They couldn't believe it," Ramos said. "But I'm here, and it's happening. I'm glad it's real."

mgelb@philly.com

@mattgelb