The Nationals’ deepest minor league position is catcher, and from their reservoir they chose Sandy Leon to replace Wilson Ramos on the roster after he tore his right ACL and back up Jesus Flores. The Nationals have complete confidence in Leon, 23, when it comes to his defense. Manager Davey Johnson called Leon “an outstanding receiver,” and their scouts have clocked Leon throwing to second base in less than two seconds.
“He’s going to impress some people,” shortstop Ian Desmond said.
Leon has improved his hitting this season at Harrisburg, too, which helped him get the call over Class AAA Syracuse catchers Carlos Maldonado and Jhonatan Solano, who just returned from an injury. Leon, a career .246 hitter in the minors, has batted .316/.356/.457 this season at Harrisburg.
This spring, Leon worked with hitting coach Rick Eckstein and Syracuse hitting coach Troy Gingrich to change the positioning of his hands. The adjustment, Leon said, led to his success. “They fixed something with my hands, and it started working,” Leon said.
Friday night, Class AA Harrisburg had been playing at Akron, and Leon arrived in Cincinnati at roughly 4 a.m. after the making the three-hour drive across Ohio.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Leon said. “Just thinking, ‘It’s true.’ I can’t believe it.”
Leon, also Venezuelan, received a call from a Harrisburg official at midnight requesting he report back to the park in Akron as fast as he could. He had not heard about Ramos’s injury and assumed he had been chosen for a random drug test. When he showed up, Manager Matt LeCroy informed him he would become a big leaguer. Leon started crying.
“I felt awesome,” Leon said. “I felt amazing. I can’t even say how I feel, because it’s amazing.”
Leon called his parents back in Venezuela, who had stayed up for the night. (“I don’t know how,” he said.) They were alarmed to receive a call so late. “What happened? What happened?” his mother asked. Leon replied, “I went to the big leagues.” She put down the phone and started crying.
“Happy Mother’s Day to my mom,” Leon said. “That’s her gift.”
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