Giants takeaways: Heliot Ramos gets All-Star support, Brett Wisely bares all

CHICAGO — Heliot Ramos was pleasantly surprised when shown the first wave of tabulations in All-Star voting.

The Giants’ breakout star was ninth among National League outfielders with more than 241,000 votes, wedged between the Cubs’ Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers’ Jason Heyward. Not bad for a 24-year-old who was optioned out of spring camp in the first wave of cuts in March and who had little reason to sign a short-term lease when he arrived at Triple-A Sacramento to start the season.

Ramos debuted May 8, and until recently, his All-Star support would have been limited to however many intrepid fans would take the time to submit him as a write-in candidate. Even after Major League Baseball began tabulating online votes, the official ballot still had a paper punch card version, hanging chads and all, that was distributed at ballparks. The online ballot matched the paper version. And those paper ballots had to be formatted and printed well before the All-Star game approached. So the ballots often featured players who got hurt in spring training and never took an at-bat, or players who lost their jobs or got sent to the minors. The breakout stars, the upstart arrivals from the minors, some of the players who represented the best stories worth promoting in the game, weren’t on the ballot.

But the league retired the last hanging chad ballot and went totally online in 2015. So there’s no need to write in Ramos’ name.

Which he thinks is pretty cool.

“That’s pretty crazy,” Ramos said.

So is posting a 181 OPS+, which only went up after Ramos hit a homer in Monday’s 7-6 victory at Wrigley Field. The only major league hitters with a higher OPS+ (minimum 150 plate appearances) are Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Steven Kwan, David Fry and Marcell Ozuna.

It might be tough for Ramos to catch up to the current NL outfield vote leaders. Jurickson Profar has more than 900,000 votes, followed by Christian Yelich (more than 821,000) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (more than 798,000). But the fact that Profar leads all outfielders is a sign that voters aren’t just checking off household names. The takeaway: Ramos could rise through the voting ranks if he keeps up his sizzling June. And even if he doesn’t, he has an excellent chance to represent the Giants as a reserve.

Brett Wisely was in a slump at Triple-A Sacramento late last season and hoping to develop a different feel at the plate. So he decided to try hitting naked.

He rubbed dirt between his palms, dabbed a little pine tar on his fingers and went to the plate with no batting gloves. He didn’t stay with that adjustment for long, but he liked the way the bat felt in his hands at the time. So he tried hitting barehanded a little more often in the offseason. That’s when he convinced himself that hitting sans gloves might really stick.

He felt more connected to the bat. He felt he could control the barrel better. He even found himself dialing back his swing and not taking wild hacks at pitches out of the zone.

“If I swing too hard with no batting gloves, I throw the bat,” Wisely said.

There was one other advantage — one that might make Wisely an ideal test subject in a behavioral psychology class.

“It makes me want to catch the barrel more,” Wisely said. “Because if I don’t catch the barrel, then my hands are going to ring. If I break the bat or catch it off the end, it’s going to hurt. When I hit it on the barrel, my hands don’t hurt.”

Wisely is less a fan of Pavlov and more a fan of Jorge Posada, who rocked the gloves-free swing for years. Wisely also enjoys watching Matt Carpenter go to the plate with nothing on his hands. He’s heard stories of former players like Mark Grace, who only used batting gloves when it dipped into the low 30s at Wrigley Field.

“I mean, it doesn’t get better than Babe Ruth,” Wisely said. “But I don’t think anyone had batting gloves back then. Did they?”

There is one drawback to hitting with no batting gloves. Nobody wants to shake your hand until you give your hands a good scrubbing. Wisely has found that tape remover does a good job of getting the worst of the pine tar off his hands. He’ll lather up to remove the rest.

No scrubbing was required Monday night at Wrigley Field, though. Wisely wore batting gloves again. There’s nothing like 95 degrees with humidity to make the bat slippery in your hands.

The takeaway: Sometimes in life, you have to be willing to expose yourself to new things.

The Giants knew long before opening day that they would have pitching reinforcements in the second half. They still feel good about those reinforcements, which include a pair of recent Cy Young Award winners.

But the Giants don’t have Blake Snell yet. He’s throwing off a bullpen mound Tuesday as he ramps back up after aggravating a groin injury. They don’t have Robbie Ray yet, either. He’s scheduled to stretch his rehab appearance to three innings in the Arizona Complex League on Tuesday. Alex Cobb and Tristan Beck are just beginning their mound progressions as well. Both of them threw off a slope Monday.

In the meantime, the Giants must continue to tread water with essentially half of a five-man rotation.

Left-hander Kyle Harrison sprained his ankle in the weight room and had to be scratched from his start on Sunday. Harrison probably won’t be ready in 15 days when he’d be eligible to return from the injured list, Giants manager Bob Melvin said. The Giants had to get Harrison a timeout at some point as he was on pace for a significant spike from the 113 innings that represented his most in a pro season.

Ideally, the Giants would have brought a few more depth options online before giving Harrison a breather. Instead, they’ll have to keep puzzling together games after Jordan Hicks and Logan Webb and hope that Keaton Winn, who is lined up to pitch Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Birmingham, Ala., is ready to hold down a spot.

As unglamorous as it might sound, perhaps the Giants should consider themselves fortunate to be trying to tread water with their rotation for another couple of weeks. Treading water is what the entire National League is doing. Following their victory Monday, the Giants (36-37) moved into the third wild-card position, one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Of the nine NL teams below the Giants in the standings, seven are within two games of them.

The takeaway: The Giants certainly can lament not having a healthier rotation that might have allowed them to pull away from the pack in the National League prior to the All-Star break. But this is an ideal season to be an NL team laying in the weeds. The Giants should be as well positioned as anyone to make a second-half surge.

(Photo: Brandon Vallance / Getty Images)

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