FORT MYERS, FLA. – Wilkin Ramirez came to the plate in the fifth inning of the Twins’ game Tuesday with runners on second and third with one out.
He got a pitch he could handle from Baltimore’s Tommy Hunter and sent a ground ball to second base. Miguel Sano scored. Ramirez was high-fived by the entire dugout.
It was as if Ramirez were a wily veteran. He is headed north with the Twins as an extra outfielder and bat off the bench, and he knows he needs to be ready to help the team in any way.
“I will probably come into situation like that late in the game and the main thing is to don’t try to do too much, just try to play the game the right way,” Ramirez said. “Try to put the ball in play and get everything going. I got an RBI in the situation and helped the team. In the sixth or seventh inning, that run might be the winning run.”
Sano, the Twins’ top prospect, was called over from minor league camp as an extra player Tuesday. He entered the Twins clubhouse before the game and took a stall on one side of the clubhouse.
Pedro Florimon came over, grabbed Sano’s gear and brought him to the other side of the room, right next to Ramirez. Sano sat down in a chair, Ramirez looked at him and began talking.
“Young guy. You come here. You want to be Manny Ramirez. You want to be someone you are not,” Wilkin Ramirez told him. “You gotta be Sano, don’t try to hit a grand slam when no one is on base.”
Ramirez, 27, has made the Twins as a reserve outfielder and a bat off the bench. He primarily plays the corner outfield spots but was in center Thursday night against the Red Sox.
He has had two stints in the majors, 15 games with Detroit in 2009 and 20 games with Atlanta in 2011. But as soon as he was named to the Twins roster, many spoke of how great an influence Ramirez will be.
Class AAA manager Gene Glynn, who managed Ramirez last season, was thrilled. He said Ramirez hates to lose and is available for advice at any time.
“He’s talks about the game, he wants people to play it right,” Glynn said. “To me, that is what carried us along with other guys feeling the same way. You’d hear him before the game get fired up to play. The dugout was alive with him.
“It was a good group of character makeup guys last year, but he was one of the leaders when it came to playing the game.”
Ramirez earned his shot by batting .408 this spring while playing steady defense and hustling. One of the first people he informed of the decision was former AL MVP Miguel Tejada, who is from his hometown of Bani in the Dominican Republic. Tejada has been Ramirez’s mentor, the things they have discussed being passed along to Sano and other players.
“He is my father in baseball,” Ramirez said. “He told me. ‘You have to play hard every day. You have to hustle. You gotta get to the stadium early.’ I called him the other day and told him I made the team. He was like happy.”
Ramirez, with few major league games under his belt, is ready to help in any way. Between the white lines or outside them.
“I just want to help everybody,” Ramirez said. “I wish I could help Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer, but those guys already know. It’s easier for me to talk to Florimon or Sano.
“Even if I can help Joe or whoever, that’s who I am.”