Could a rejuvenated Heliot Ramos be the spark the SF Giants’ lineup needs?

SAN FRANCISCO — It meant nothing to the outcome of the game but everything to Heliot Ramos.

A year and a half after getting his first call to the big leagues, Ramos slugged his first career home run Saturday night in the ninth inning of a 9-3 loss to the Rangers. A cruise missile — 110.1 mph off the bat — that landed midway up the bleachers in left-center field, the milestone wasn’t as much an introduction as the revival of a onetime top prospect.

And served as some brotherly bragging rights.

“Now I can tell my brother that I hit my first one — harder than him,” Ramos said of his older brother, Henry, 31, who was called up by the Reds on Saturday for his third look in the major leagues. “It feels great.”

While it was a long time coming for the 2017 first-round pick, it was also a reminder of his immense potential and, despite him being yo-yo’d between the majors and Triple-A Sacramento, that he is still three weeks away from his 24th birthday.

More so, it was further proof that the adjustments he made, both over the offseason and during his two-month absence with an oblique injury this year, are having the desired impact. Before being recalled Wednesday — his sixth stint in the majors while only playing his 20th game Saturday — Ramos was batting .330 (32-for-97) with six home runs and a 1.025 OPS at Triple-A since returning from the injury.

“He’s confident right now,” hitting coach Justin Viele said before Saturday’s game. “I think last year there were times where he didn’t get the results he wanted and that really affected his confidence. Whereas early on this year he got some of that, some confidence, and then he got hurt, which was a bummer. And then he came back, and he’s on a mission.”

The injury, Ramos said, served as a blessing in disguise.

A check swing on May 5 ended up costing him nearly two months. But it also gave him equal time to reset.

“I have to produce. I have to get better. I have to be better,” Ramos said. “If I didn’t make it happen, it was never going to happen. They will want me if I look good at the plate, if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Working with Viele over the offseason, the duo identified a flaw in Ramos’ swing.

Ramos has elite bat speed. It’s what allows him to launch balls like the one Saturday night. The previous night, entering as a pinch-hitter, Ramos ripped one even harder: a 112.7 mph double. The Giants only have one player who has hit a ball that hard this season — Joc Pederson — and only 20 total balls in play at 110-plus mph, bottom-five in the majors.

But often, he was still late to the ball. It took too long for his bat to get into the zone.

In Viele’s words, he needed to “trim the fat.”

“If I’m here,” he said, mimicking a batting stance and raising his back elbow, “and it takes me 200 milliseconds (to swing), that’s about average.

“But if I’m like up here,” he said, raising the elbow a tick higher, “and it takes me like 250 milliseconds, it makes a huge difference.

“Now you’re talking like upper 200, around 300 milliseconds, whatever, the higher it gets, the more time it takes to get to contact. Those fastballs in the zone, instead of catching them (in front of the plate), maybe I’m catching them (as the ball crosses), and that’s the difference between a line drive and a ground ball.”

Now, Ramos doesn’t lift his bat off his shoulders until he is about to swing. His elbow is lower, and his hands held closer to his body. (Randy Winn provided an excellent breakdown on the NBC Sports Bay Area postgame show.)

“He’s really simplified a lot of his movements,” Viele said. “He had a big back elbow climb. He had a big back shift. There was just a lot of excess movement.”

At Triple-A this season, Ramos has been hitting line drives 26.4% of the time, versus a 12.9% career average, and ground balls at only a 44.6% rate, down from a 54.8% career clip.

Consider Ramos’ two extra-base hits since coming back up, both driven on a line to either center or left-center field.

“He’s not trying to pull the baseball, but I think he’s getting the ball in the air to the pull side better than he has in the past,” Viele said.

“I thought it was right at (center fielder Leody Tavares),” Ramos said of the 113 mph double. “When I saw it going up, I was like, ‘Oh, hell yeah.’

“I’ve been feeling pretty good at the plate. Honestly the main focus has just been getting a pitch I can handle and hit hard. Whatever happens after happens, you know what I mean?”

If it sounds like Ramos has had an awakening, well, he kind of has.

With the help of two-way player and spring training sensation Ronald Guzmán.

Rehabbing together at the Giants’ Arizona facilities, Gúzman, a five-year big-leaguer as a hitter before attempting to transition to pitching, imparted some words of wisdom on the young outfielder. “Almost everyday,” Ramos said, for more than a month.

“We had a lot of conversations. Mental, spiritual, all that stuff,” Ramos said. “My previous mindset, I didn’t even know what I was thinking about. I was just all over the place, trying to figure it out right there in the at-bat instead of getting ready from before. Now, I have a routine everyday. If it goes my way, fine; if not, then I know that I worked for it and the next day is going to be a better day.”

That outlook has helped him process his struggles at the plate, his injury and the disparate way his development has happened in relation to other young players such as Luis Matos, Patrick Bailey and Casey Schmitt, who have been given long first looks in the majors.

“At the end of the day, it’s different careers,” Ramos said. “I’m happy for them, obviously. Bailey’s doing a great job, Matos is looking really good. I can’t be jealous about that. …

“They will want me if I look good at the plate, if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If I’m not going what I’m supposed to be doing, I can’t ask or demand what I want.”

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