PHOENIX - When the Phillies convened last October in Clearwater, Fla., for their annual organizational meetings, there was overwhelming consensus on one issue: Edubray Ramos, eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft, needed to be protected. The young pitcher was added to the 40-man roster and ticketed for big-league spring training.

Ramos did not emerge during the spring; he was just another pitcher with a high jersey number. Now, after three major-league appearances, the 23-year-old righthander has exceeded all expectations.

The Phillies gush about his arm.

"He has fire coming out of his hand," Cameron Rupp said. Carlos Ruiz was impressed with the way Ramos, immediately inserted into difficult situations, handled the pressure. Pete Mackanin was asked Tuesday whether Ramos has a future as a closer.

"Yes," Mackanin said.

The Phillies manager paused. He then added: "I don't want to jump the gun, but he certainly has the stuff and the demeanor to be a closer, from what I've seen in a short time."

Ramos has faced 10 batters and thrown first-pitch strikes to eight of them. His fastball has averaged 94 mph. He throws a curveball and a slider, although it is difficult to tell the difference between the two breaking balls. The curveball has some bite, the slider a little more tilt. They have both generated bad swings.

Ramos pitched two scoreless innings Monday in an 8-0 rout of the Diamondbacks. Mackanin has used Ramos in high-leverage spots. Should the Phillies trade Jeanmar Gomez to a contender, it is not a stretch to imagine Ramos as the closer by September.

"He appears to be fearless," Mackanin said. "I'm really excited about what I see. Hopefully he can sustain that for the rest of the year. He has all of the ingredients to be a back-end-of-the-bullpen guy."

Extra bases

One day after a four-strikeout game, Tommy Joseph was benched in favor of Ryan Howard. Joseph, from nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., had a large contingent of family and friends in the stands Monday. "A hometown crowd. He wanted to impress," Mackanin said. "I've been there before. You have to put them out of your mind. It happens." Joseph has struck out 35 times in 36 games with just three walks. . . . Outfielder Dylan Cozens and righthander Ricardo Pinto, both with double-A Reading, were named to the annual Futures Game to be played in San Diego two days before the All-Star Game. . . . Mackanin said Vince Velasquez reported no soreness Tuesday after his five scoreless innings Monday.