Small in stature, LHP Joe Ortiz making big impression
Ortiz, 22, is listed at 5-foot-7, though I'm not sure that number would hold up under scrutiny. He doesn't have a particularly big arm -- he can touch 92 mph when he's feeling good -- and he walks around the clubhouse with a huge smile that certainly doesn't scream intimidation. But put Ortiz on a mound and he gives it everything he's got, attacking hitters and competing hard. Left-handed batters, in particular, don't enjoy the experience.
"I got to play with him in (Double-A) Frisco and (Triple-A) Round Rock last year and he's a competitor, that's for sure," Justin Grimm said. "He won't back down. He has a devastating slider that is really tough on lefties and he was throwing his fastball more toward the end of the year."
Ortiz knows he can't overpower hitters, so he works to keep the ball down and to move in and out.
"I know in Arlington the ball can go out fast if it's up," Ortiz said through translator Martin Perez. "I'll work it in and out, but I have to stay down in the zone. I feel like I'm pitching well."
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One scout told me that Ortiz reminds him of former Ranger reliever Eddie Guardado in that Ortiz is a fun guy, but a hard-nosed competitor. Like Guardado, he doesn't have a high-octane fastball, but he knows how to locate pitches.
Once things are sorted out with the rotation, if the Rangers have room for a left-handed specialist in the pen, perhaps Ortiz can make a push. He was 1-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with Frisco and then 1-1 with a 1.97 ERA in 32 innings with Round Rock. He had a combined 2.15 ERA in those 62 2/3 innings to go along with 52 strikeouts and nine walks.
There's no doubt walking around the backfields and talking to scouts and coaches that Ortiz is making an impression. We'll see if he can continue to do that once Cactus League games start this weekend.
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