Originally created 05/13/05

Ramirez blends in at back of Braves' rotation



DENVER -- Of the Atlanta Braves hopeful that John Smoltz's back would be healthy enough to make his scheduled start Wednesday in Colorado, left-hander Horacio Ramirez was at the forefront.

Let's just say Ramirez had a vested interest.

"I asked him all week if he wanted massages," Ramirez said.

Smoltz went eight innings in a no decision Wednesday. As a result, Ramirez will get his wish.

The Inglewood, Calif., native will start against Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium - the team he grew up rooting for in a venue that he holds dear.

"It's going to be a dream come true," the 25-year-old Ramirez said. "It's something I can just mark off the checklist. The history and tradition have been there since I was a kid."

Back then, Ramirez went to two or three games a year, he said. His little league team went on a few outings to the old-style stadium. He grew up watching Dodgers of the late '80s and early-to-mid '90s with pitchers Orel Hershiser and Pedro Astacio.

He said he loved to listen to famed announcer Vin Scully call the game. Now Scully will be talking about him.

"I'm going to try and get a recording of it," he said.

Tonight, Ramirez (2-2, 3.68 ERA) will go against Los Angeles' Jeff Weaver (4-2, 5.23).

Circumstances in the past have conspired to prevent Ramirez from taking the mound at Chavez Ravine.

Two seasons ago in his rookie year, the rotation had him missing a hometown start by a day.

Last year, a bum shoulder sidelined him for the majority of the year, including the team's trip to Los Angeles in August.

"I felt like it wasn't ever going to happen," he said.

But it will. And he'll have plenty of friends and family in the stands to view it. v

Among those watching will be Ramirez's parents, sister, several cousins, an uncle and his grandmother who's in town for a visit.

Memecia Ramirez, from a small town two hours south of Guadalajara, Mexico, has never seen her grandson pitch.

"I'm sure she'll be in awe of the stadium," he said.

He said he'll be in a similar state.

"I think walking from the bullpen to the dugout and the dugout to the mound is going to be the most nerve-wracking part," Ramirez said.

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.