Cesar Ramos is out of options meaning he can't be sent to AAA without first being exposed to waivers but this is not why he will be part of the Rays 2013 Opening Day roster. Ramos is left handed and over the winter the Rays lost left handed reliever J.P. Howell as a free agent to the Los Angeles Dodgers but that is not why he will be on the opening day roster either.
The reason he will be on the opening day roster is because during his three stints with the Rays in 2012 he earned the trust of manager Joe Maddon. He did this by delivering 30 innings over 17 appearances including a start against the Phillies on June 4th. Of his 17 appearances over half of them (9) were multiple inning outings.
In his 30 innings of work he held the opposition to slash line of .176/.258/.231 and only allowed two extra base hits (home runs) to the 120 batters he faced. His strike out rate improved from 6.4 K/9 in 2011 to 8.7 K/9 in 2012 but more importantly, especially to the manager, his walk rate decreased from 5.2 BB/9 in 2011 to 3.0 BB/9 in 2012. Working multiple innings, not giving up extra base hits, and being able to strike people out are three good reasons to be in a major league bullpen but being able to be called upon to retire either left handed batters or right handed batters is the added bonus.
In 2012 he faced a nearly even amount of right handed batters (59) and left handed batters (61) and fared well against both sides of the plate but especially well against right handed batters holding RHB to a .140 batting average against which ranked 5th for AL relievers (min 50 ABs). Overall he held RHB to a slash line of .130/.230/.241 slash line and a .219 wOBA which was an improvement over his 2011 numbers of .224/.359/.347 his career numbers prior to the 2012 season of .329/.417/.464.
He wasn't as tough on left handed batters but still held them to a .222/.288/.222 with a wOBA of .239. He didn't allow an extra base hit and struck out 13 batters and issuing only 3 walks. Similar to his numbers against right handed batters his 2012 season was an improvement over his 2011 slash line against of .216/.313/.326 with a wOBA against of .288 and his career slash line prior to the 2012 season of .279/.363/.385.
One noticeable change in Ramos repertoire since joining the Rays in 2011 has been his decreased use of his slider. According to Fangraphs while with the Padres 14.3% of his pitches were sliders in 2009 and that number increased to 25.8% in 2010. With the Rays in 2011 that number was decreased to 7.9% and further decreased to 6.5% in 2012.
Along with the decreasing use of the slider came an increased use of his fastball. While with the Padres in 2009 he threw his fastball 58.6% but that number decreased to 51% in 2010. With the Rays he threw the fastball 57% of the time in 2011 and 69.2% in 2012.
Of the fastball percentages categorized by Fangraphs in 2012 only 16.4% are of the four seam variety and 53.5% are categorized as sinkers. It's the first year that Fangraphs has categorized a sinker as part of his arsenal. The desired outcome when throwing the sinker is groundball outs and he set a career high mark with a 54.4% groundball rate.
In the last two seasons Ramos has improved against hitters on both sides of the plate, he's changed his arsenal and gained control of the strike zone, and is able to keep the ball in the park. These factors have all helped Ramos earn a spot in the 2013 bullpen but could 2013 be the year that he takes advantage of an opportunity to work in high leverage situations?