By Stu Matthews, Angels Nation managing editor
When the Angels traded away soft-tossing reliever Noe Ramirez during the Winter Meetings in December, it was with a bit of a heavy heart.
Ramirez was never a star for the Angels. He never had a demolishing fastball or devastating strikeout pitches. But the former Cal State Fullerton pitcher, who gets by on guile and craft, never complained, always did his job, and was a popular and useful member of the Angels in the pen and the clubhouse.
It appears Sunday that Ramirez is on the way back to the Big A.
The writing seemed on the way after the Cincinnati Reds — the team the Angels traded Ramirez to — released him Saturday, and then on Sunday morning the Halos announced that they had demoted optioned reliever Ty Buttrey to the minors.
This means in essence means the Angels obtained closer Raisel Iglesias in exchange for only infield prospect Leonardo Rivas.
It’s possible that the deal is a minor-league deal, so it’s unknown when Ramirez, 31, would rejoin the Angels. But he wouldn’t be expected to be cast into the same high-leverage relief situations that Buttrey was expected to handle.
Neither Ramirez or Buttrey were great in spring training, but clearly the Angels brass thinks that Buttrey needs time in the minors to work out his command problems — problems that have stopped him from reaching his potential as a bullpen stopper.
With the Reds in spring training, Ramirez got knocked around a bit in the Cactus League, surrendering 11 runs despite pitching only six innings for a 9.00 ERA — but Angels manager Joe Maddon and staff know Ramirez is better than that.
In parts of four seasons and 151 games with the Angels, Ramirez has thrown 180.1 innings, struck out 198 batters, and posted a 13-9 record against a 4.04 ERA.
He’s also good at keeping the ball in the park — Ramirez has only given up 26 homers in those 180.1 innings.
Ramirez only throws 90-91 mph, but he can be a stabilizing force in the Angels pen. Maddon showed last season he’s not afraid to use Ramirez to pitch out of tough situations, usually after a starter has departed with runners on.
In 2020, Ramirez had a 3.00 ERA in 21 games and struck out 14 in 21 innings before being dealt to the Reds for the spring. Now he’s back.
And Buttrey will have to try to find his way back to the majors.
Buttrey pitched in seven Cactus League games this spring to a 3.86 ERA, but the alarming trend was the big right-hander’s tendency to pitch into hard contact. He gave up nine hits, and combined with his four walks, that 1.86 WHIP may be a bit dicey for the high-leverage situations to Angels envisage Buttrey in.