Of the seemingly endless parade of pitchers to come through the Angels bullpen during the later months of the 2021 season, one of the more interesting cameos was A.J. Ramos, the longtime Marlins closer looking to re-establish himself in the league after a shoulder injury wiped out nearly two years of his professional career.
Ramos’s Angels career started back in late March when he signed a minor-league deal with the club after featuring in three games with the Colorado Rockies at the end of the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. The former All-Star was assigned to the Halos’ alternate training site for the first month of the year, and once the minor-league season kicked off, he made his way to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Ramos would go on to spend almost all of 2021 with the Bees, appearing in 42 games while posting a 5.26 ERA with 76 strikeouts across 53 innings in the very hitter friendly Triple-A West. These numbers were mainly inflated by a disastrous month of July where he recorded an ERA over 10, however, as those marks came in at no higher than 3.86 every other month of the season.
Aj Ramos strikes out three straight batter to get out of a jam pic.twitter.com/eE9Dh4TNjM— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) September 1, 2021
The 35-year-old Ramos finally got the call back to the majors on September 23, becoming the 40th different pitcher that the club had used on the season to that point. In his Angels debut just a day later, he tossed two perfect relief innings in what was his first outing in the bigs in 364 days. Two days after that, he recorded another scoreless inning, working himself out of a jam after putting back-to-back runners on via a pair of one-out walks.
Welcome to the @Angels, AJ Ramos #WeBelieve I @Angels pic.twitter.com/894ADrziPu— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) September 25, 2021
Ramos looked to have a very good opportunity to record the 100th save of his career on September 30 against the Rangers with closer Raisel Iglesias seemingly unavailable, but unfortunately for him, bullpen mate Jimmy Herget blew the Halos’ lead in the 8th inning before he got the chance to do it. This relegated him to cleanup duty after Herget was relieved, where he got the final two outs of the frame without any stress.
The veteran’s final appearance came during the Angels’ season finale against the playoff-hopeful Mariners. Ramos came in the 8th inning during that game and pitched another scoreless inning, tossing just 15 pitches and striking out a pair of hitters.
4.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 0.00 ERA in four relief appearances with the Angels
5.26 ERA in 42 relief appearances with AAA Salt Lake
Best Performance of the Year
There weren’t that many outings to choose from given Ramos’s limited time in the majors, but his best one was probably the one in the season finale against the Mariners. That whole series had a playoff atmosphere due to Seattle staying alive in the Wild Card hunt all the way to the end, and with a chance to end their season just two innings away, Ramos came through and struck out two of the three batters he faced.
Ramos’s contract with the Angels was for only one year, so he is officially a free agent as of the publishing of this story. There are still a few open spots in the bullpen next year behind Iglesias, Aaron Loup, Mike Mayers, Austin Warren and José Quijada that figure to be open for competition in Spring Training, though, so it’s definitely within the realm of possibility that he is brought back on another deal to try to earn one of them. He looked good enough in his brief cameo with the Halos in September, and given his track record of success late in games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back once again in 2022.