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It will forever be associated with Yankees reliever Edwar Ramirez, but Billy Eppler deserves the lion's share of the credit, for both the catchphrase and for Ramirez's being a Yankee. I hope you'll pardon the long extract, but the Newark Star-Ledger's Ed Price tells this story so well...
NEW YORK -- If anyone deserves credit for the Yankees' discovery of Edwar Ramirez, it's a computer.
"Statistics found him," Billy Eppler, the team's director of professional scouting, said yesterday.
Ramirez has pitched twice since his July 1 promotion to the Yankees, going 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA.
It was early July last year when the Yankees needed a reliever to fill out their roster at Class A Tampa.
While Eppler looked for players who had been recently released by other organizations, Troy Caradonna -- the assistant director of baseball operations in the team's Tampa offices -- checked statistics of the independent leagues.
Caradonna found Ramirez in the United League: 1.07 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 10 walks in 25 1/3 innings for Edinburg (Texas).
"We didn't send anybody in to look," Eppler said. "I looked at a few old reports, didn't see anything [negative], and made a couple of phone calls checking on [mental] makeup."
People from the Los Angeles Angels, who had released Ramirez twice, didn't bring up any red flags. Nor did his injury history. So the Yankees signed him, paying the United League in the range of $1,500 to $3,000.
What the Yankees never found out until they got Ramirez is that he had taught himself a wicked changeup while he was out of baseball in 2004. He pitched in 19 games for Tampa, going 4-1 with a 1.17 ERA, 47 strikeouts and six walks in 30 2/3 innings.
That was last season. This season, Ramirez's numbers in the minors were simply phenomenal. With Double-A Trenton, he struck out 33 batters in 16 innings. With Triple-A Scranton, he struck out 47 batters in 27 innings. Now he's in the majors, and he's struck out four batters in two innings. In his debut he struck out three straight Twins, all with that nasty changeup.
For all the talk about the Yankees' financial advantage, it's worth mentioning that any other team in baseball could have picked up Ramirez. If only they'd let the statistics do their work for them.