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Erasmo Ramirez and the outfield popup

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A study in optimism.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pitchers often point skyward on infield fly balls. They do it because, hypothetically, they have the best view of the ball off the bat. They point to clue in the rest of their infielders—and particularly the catcher, who has the most difficult time tracking flight off the bat—that the ball’s up there above the infield or in foul territory.

“It’s there,” the gesture says. “Go get it, please.”

Infield flies almost always do get caught, so the point to the sky also doubles as a declaration of triumph: “I got him.”

And as the conclusion to a stressful inning, or at the end of a game, it’s a giving of thanks.

Erasmo Ramirez, traded to the Mariners yesterday, points at the sky a lot. It’s not that he gets an inordinate number of popups. He doesn’t. Instead, he points at fly balls to the outfield—well-hit balls that are probably catchable, but certainly not a sure thing. I honestly don’t know why.

Maybe in Nicaragua they teach teenage pitchers to point at everything. Maybe Ramirez is bad at tracking the ball and he really doesn’t know where the fly is going. Or maybe he’s an optimist.

I prefer to think it’s that last one.

Being a major league pitcher is hard, and every out is worth celebrating. There were a pair of games at the start of the 2015 season when it seemed like Ramirez might never get another out again. Plenty of fans lost faith in Erasmo then, and I expect he wasn’t quite sure himself if he believed.

But he got his command and his sequencing together, locked down a rotation spot, and when the team asked him to, moved to the bullpen with a smile.

Ignore the 4.80 ERA this year. We now know that we believe. Rarely has a Rays player with such mixed results been so beloved.

“It’s there, go get it.”

“You got them.”

“Thank you.”