Ramirez happy to make Opening Day squad

Ramirez happy to make Opening Day squad

Ramirez happy to make Opening Day squad
OAKLAND -- Erasmo Ramirez is a youngster with an ever-present smile, even on a normal day. But the 21-year-old rookie was literally beaming on Thursday as he dressed in the Mariners' clubhouse for the team's off-day workout after making the 25-man roster on Wednesday.

Asked if he could be serious, Ramirez turned on a mock scowl for a moment, then broke back into a grin.

"One second," he said of his effort.

The Nicaraguan native has reason to smile. He is the youngest player to crack the Mariners' roster and one of the biggest surprises from the start of camp, after arriving in the shadow of top prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker -- who are all starting the season at Double-A Jackson.

"I've lived four years in the Minor Leagues, and I know how hard it is to move up," said Ramirez, who split last year between Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma. "And when you get up here, everybody behind you in the Minors wants your spot. So now I need to keep working to try to keep it as long as I can."

Ramirez stands just 5-foot-10, but he's got a deceptive fastball and excellent command. He'll fill a middle-inning relief role to start, manager Eric Wedge said, with the potential for some later-inning appearances as things develop.

Ramirez started out as a reliever in the Venezuela Summer League in 2008, but has been primarily a starter throughout his climb through the system. When it comes down to it, he's just happy with whatever chance he gets.

"Yeah, I want to pitch," he said. "Give me a ball, give me a chance. It wasn't like I wanted to be a starter or reliever all my life. Just give me a chance to throw the ball to home plate."