The last Major League Baseball game Ramon Ortiz pitched in was on October 1, 2007 with the Colorado Rockies. Ortiz pitched one inning of no-hit ball, and struck out one as he earned the win against the San Diego Padres in a 13-inning, 5-4 win at Coors Field.
Since then, Ortiz hasn't touched a Major League field, but that isn't to say that journeyman pitcher has quit playing baseball altogether just yet.
After playing baseball for the Nippon Baseball League in Japan in 2008 with the Orix Buffaloes, the 36-year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants during Spring Training this season.
However, unlike infielder Juan Uribe (who also signed a similar minor league contract in Spring Training after his contract was up with the Chicago White Sox) Ortiz has been regulated to being in Fresno all season.
That is not to say that Ortiz necessarily deserves to be playing in the minor leagues.
In 29 appearances, and 10 starts, he has a 5-2 record, a 2.48 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with the Grizzlies. Ortiz may not be dominating the Pacific Coast League by any measure like Madison Bumgarner is dominating in Double-A Connecticut, but he has certainly showed that he is capable of pitching in the Major Leagues again soon.
Only two things hold Ortiz back from putting on a Giants uniform:
A talented pitching staff, and his past.
Unfortunately, despite the solid numbers for Ortiz this year at Triple-A, the Giants simply don't need him, whether it is in the rotation or the bullpen. The Giants are already more than settled in the rotation with Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez and now, Martinez holding it down. Furthermore, the Giants will have to make a tough decision on who to bump out if the Big Unit returns healthy and ready to go in September.
The bullpen isn't exactly yearning for arms either. Miller anchors the long-relief position, and Romo, Affeldt, Medders and Howry have the seventh and eighth innings covered too. And the closer, Wilson? Let's just say he's not relinquishing that position for the rest of the season.
Add that with a lot of promising arms such as Kevin Pucetas, Bumgarner and Waldis Joaquin who will be considered for a callup when the roster expands, and the chances of Ortiz getting a chance to take the hill at AT&T looks as slim as Eric Roberts getting the lead role in the next Martin Scorsese movie.
It's not just the organizational depth though that hurts Ortiz chances. Let's face it. The guy hasn't shown much since 2002, where he was a key starter in the Angels' World Series rotation (trying to hold back from breaking something for a second), and went 15-9 with a 3.77 ERA.
Since that 2002 season, however, Ortiz has been a shell of himself. His ERA has only been under five once, which was in 2004. It was 4.43 in his last season with the Angels, but he only pitched 14 games that year as well.
Furthermore, his combined win-loss record since 2002 has left much to be desired. Since 2003, his record has been 46-51 after playing for the Angels in 2003 and 2004, the Cincinnati Reds in 2005, the Washington Nationals in 2006, and the Minnesota Twins and Rockies in 2007.
With that kind of history in terms of win-loss record and ERA, it comes as no surprise why GM Brian Sabean promoted guys like Ryan Sadowski and Joaquin over somebody like Ortiz.
As Ortiz continues to pitch well in Fresno, it will definitely be interesting to see what the future will hold for the journeyman pitcher who many thought was finished in the Major Leagues after 2007.
After throwing a three-hit shutout on August 4th, Ortiz is certainly making enough noise to merit Sabean's attention. Does he deserve as much consideration as a younger guy like Pucetas or Joaquin? Probably not, but you can't ignore him if he's lighting up the Pacific Coast League.
To be perfectly honest, Ortiz would be a great story to a team that is chock full of them this season. Jeremy Affeldt's resurgence. Joe Martinez's comeback after getting hit with a line drive on April 9. Pablo Sandoval breaking out. Matt Cain finally getting run support. The Giants 60-and-freaking-48. Ortiz would only add to what has been an incredible season in San Francisco.
Some Giants fans will say we don't need him, and they're probably right. But I think the situation with Ortiz goes beyond our need for him, and rather his need for the Giants to give him this shot. And to be frank, I think that chance is worth it for the Giants. He wouldn't have to be a starting pitcher or even that key of a reliever for this Giants squad. He can just be another pitcher to mop things up or lower the damage after a starter is taken out early. I certainly believe he is more than capable of handling those responsibilities.
Because the bottom line? He is pitching well enough in the minors to deserve one more shot at the majors, and as history has shown, guys in his situation don't usually waste last chances.
Unless you're Tony Batista or Jose Lima of course, but I can make a safe bet that Ortiz is no Batista or Lima. "Lima Time" wouldn't have anything on Ortiz if he could make this comeback.
Down on the Farm: 9/1/0215
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