Ramos driven to be a top-tier closer

Offseason rumors motivating righty to prove he is Marlins' No. 1 option in bullpen

Ramos driven to be a top-tier closer

JUPITER, Fla. -- Blocking out distractions comes with the territory when you're a big league closer. A.J. Ramos, an All-Star in 2016, has repeatedly shown he's able to ignore all the outside noise and zero in on doing his job.

But as calm as Ramos is on the mound, the 30-year-old still couldn't help but pay attention to the offseason reports that the Marlins were targeting free-agent closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.

Miami offered each more than $80 million, only to come up short. Chapman opted to sign with the Yankees, and Jansen returned to the Dodgers.

The courtships of the two top-tiered closers had Ramos wondering if he would be Miami's closer in 2017, or even with the team.

"I didn't think about it too much, but I'm human," Ramos said. "I am going to think about it, but I tried to block it out as much as possible to get ready."

Even though the Marlins missed out on two elite free agents, they have a more than capable fallback plan in Ramos, who saved 40 of 43 chances last year and had a 2.81 ERA. The right-hander also is a bargain, making $6.55 million this year.

Ramos notches the save

"To me, A.J.'s a guy who has good stuff," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's got basically a starter mix, and he can pitch backwards. He's competitive. He's one of those guys you count on."

When the offseason rumors were gaining steam, Ramos was hearing from friends and teammates wondering how he was feeling.

"It's business," Ramos said. "They're trying to make the team the best they possibly can. Our bullpen is awesome now, but having one of those guys is obviously a plus. They're superstars, for good reason. That would have made the team better. You can't get mad at that. They're trying to win. That's how I took it, they're trying to win ballgames."

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Ramos has always had to prove himself. A 21st round pick from Texas Tech in 2009, the right-hander has always been tall when he didn't measure up.

Ramos was either too short to pitch, or he doesn't throw hard enough to close. His four-seam fastball velocity, per Statcast™, was 92.51 mph, below the MLB average 93.04 mph.

Mattingly has already tabbed Ramos as the closer, although there are others capable of handling the role, like free-agent pickup Brad Ziegler.

Ramos is using the fact the Marlins pushed for Chapman and Jansen as motivation.

"Definitely," Ramos said. "I want to be the guy that everybody wants to sign. The guy everybody wants on their team. I'm working towards that. I feel I'm not there yet. Those guys have gotten a lot of attention and publicity, they earned that. I'm definitely trying to work towards that."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.