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Cincy Post: Ramon Ortiz's First Day

Discussion in 'Professional Baseball' started by Highstreet, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. Highstreet

    Highstreet Freshman

    Cincy Post:
    Ortiz at home as a Red
    But arbitration is next hurdle

    By Marc Lancaster
    Post staff reporter

    SARASOTA, Fla. -- Ramon Ortiz wasn't quite sure what to expect on his first official day wearing a different shade of red.
    After spending the first 10 seasons of his professional career in the Angels organization, from the Dominican Summer League on up the ranks to Anaheim, the right-hander had prepared to feel at least a little uncomfortable Wednesday as he entered a new clubhouse filled with unfamiliar faces.

    By early afternoon, any fears Ortiz had about how he might fit in had long subsided, to the point that he had no trouble proclaiming himself thrilled to be a Red.

    "Everybody's talking to everybody -- everybody's nice here," he said, sounding impressed and maybe a bit surprised. "It's like going to Anaheim; everybody knows me in Anaheim, and I'm feeling like that right now here."

    Ortiz's acquisition from the Angels Dec. 14 in exchange for minor league starter Dustin Moseley was the first domino to fall in what ended up being a surprising run of additions for the Reds. Like several who followed him to Cincinnati, Ortiz was rendered affordable in part because of a subpar 2004 season, but he also has the best argument for attributing at least some of his dropoff to issues beyond his control.

    After starting 32 games for the Angels three consecutive years, some offseason additions (like Bartolo Colon) and a poor start to the season left Ortiz on the back burner in Anaheim last year. He was bumped from the rotation in mid-May and became a reliever for the first time in his career. Then it was back to starting for a while thanks to injuries before finishing the season in the bullpen again.

    Though pleased with his performance in relief (2.76 ERA in 20 appearances), Ortiz was not happy about the way he was being used, and let that be known. The dispute got messy at times, and thus it's no surprise that Ortiz will suit up for a different club in 2005.

    He hasn't spent too much time fondly reminiscing.

    "I never think about last year," Ortiz said. "Right now, I have to think about this year. Everything is positive for this year."

    Being assured of a spot in the rotation, probably the No. 3 slot behind Paul Wilson and Eric Milton, has plenty to do with that. Not to mention the matter of starting with a clean slate -- at least on the field.

    The one hitch in Ortiz's transition to the Reds has been his contract. Navigating the salary arbitration process for the first time, Ortiz and his agent have been unable to come to a resolution with the Reds. The player is seeking $4 million this year and the club has offered $3.45 million. An arbitration hearing is set for Friday at 2 p.m. up the road in Tampa, and all indications are that no compromise will be reached before then.

    Reds general manager Dan O'Brien, who met Ortiz for the first time Wednesday, is not pleased about that since the arbitration process is inherently destructive. O'Brien related a story Wednesday about a player telling him after an arbitration hearing that he now knew what it felt like to have an autopsy performed while he was still alive.

    "It is not the preferred resolution, and frankly, for an individual coming into a brand-new setting, this is really not the first step that you'd like as an introduction," O'Brien said. "But we still continue to work at it, and I can't say I'm overly optimistic, but I'm still hopeful."

    On the other side of the negotiating table, Ortiz is nonplussed. He cheerfully brushed off a question about the impending hearing Wednesday, saying he'd leave all that to his agent, Boston-based Pat Roache.

    "I don't think that much about money right now," he said. "I'm putting my concentration on the game and playing the game."

    Ortiz began the process of bouncing back from last year by getting in a little work at home this offseason. He pitched about 20 innings for Licey in the Dominican winter league, in part because he wanted to make up for throwing only 128 innings last year in Anaheim, his lowest total since 1998. Ortiz didn't look all that good doing it, posting a 9.49 ERA and losing all three of his starts for Licey in the round-robin portion of the season, but he didn't seem concerned.

    In fact, it was difficult to wipe the smile off his face Wednesday. He said he was excited to see the Reds pick up Milton and thought there was a lot of young talent around the clubhouse.

    Everyone gets a fresh start in spring training, but some need it more than others.

    "I want to say thank you to the Anaheim Angels for the opportunity they gave me to go to Cincinnati," Ortiz said. "I feel really good right now."


    If Ortiz can cut down on the # of homers he allows, he could be an exciting strikeout arm the Reds have not had for years imo.
     
  2. jlb1705

    jlb1705 hipster doofus Staff Member Bookie

    I remember a few years ago when he was referred to as "Little Pedro" I don't think anybody's expecting anything close to that, but if he can pitch more up to his potential, he could be the most dynamic pitcher the Reds have had since Rijo.
     

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