There’s a peculiar sort of madness that comes with being a late-game reliever. Think of Turk Wendell, who’d take the mound wearing a necklace of claws and teeth, or Rod Beck, with his bushy mustache and wild mullet.
Setup men and closers are of a different sort. Many like the adrenaline. All live in a constant pressure chamber.
And still, AJ Ramos sounded a little nuts on Friday.
You see, his former team came to town, and that meant Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins would be in the visiting dugout. And for reasons that escape accepted logic, Ramos couldn’t wait to face the player who has victimized major-league pitchers from sea to shining sea.
They are best friends.
And Ramos wants to crush him.
“I think if he’s on deck, I think I might walk Dee [Gordon] and get to him,” Ramos joked (we think). “It’s going to be fun. He’s been on a crazy tear. This is exactly when I want to face him. I don’t want to face him when he’s not doing well. There are sometimes when he looks like he doesn’t know how to swing the bat. I don’t want to face him like that. I want to face him when he’s locked in like this and see what happens.”
Stanton recently homered in six straight games and 10 of 12. That gave him 23 homers in a 35-game span. Probably qualifies as “locked in.’’
Former Marlins closer Ramos came to the Mets on July 28 and filled the role vacated by Addison Reed. He is tied for sixth in the National League with 22 saves, and, Terry Collins said, appears to get better with more on the line.
Along with the standings, that’s one of the reasons the Mets are reasonably comfortable taking their sweet time with Jeurys Familia, who began his rehab assignment this week and might not go back to closing immediately after he returns.,
“When it’s crunch time, he’s immensely more focused,” Collins said of Ramos. “I’ve seen it from closers, but I’ve really noticed what a tremendous difference it is. His fastball has more life. His off-speed pitches have more bite. It’s pretty impressive . . . This guy is going to be a big fit down the road. Even if we get Jeurys back, we’ve got another certainly quality guy down there.”
On Friday, the gregarious Ramos embraced his old teammates during the rain delay and took pictures with young fans. No matter how many friends he has in Miami, he says he loves New York. And given his personality, it’s likely he’ll enjoy the brighter lights here, too.
It looks as if he’ll have just as much fun facing the Marlins as he did playing with them. After all, Ramos is a guy who likes a challenge, and Stanton’s 44 home runs and 94 RBIs and Marcell Ozuna’s 90 RBIs provide plenty.
“I like to face the best,” Ramos said. “I like to face guys when they’re doing well. Also, facing this [Marlins] lineup at this point in time is going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be fun. I love challenges and we’ll see how it goes out there.”
And much like any closer worth a whit, Ramos envisions only success on his end. One way or another.
“I said I was going to hit him — just playing around,” Ramos said of Stanton. “It’s bragging rights for the rest of the year. I’ll hopefully face him a couple times.”
And that’s a little bit nuts, just like a closer ought to be.