Wilson Ramos will bat cleanup tonight for the second time this season, and he remains the only rookie in the majors to start a game batting fourth this season. A few factors are in play for the Nationals’ rookie catcher to hit fourth – Ryan Zimmerman, of course, is out; the Nationals have slumping hitters up and down their lineup; they’re facing a lefty, and Manager Jim Riggleman wants to have a right-handed hitter bat behind Jayson Werth, which means Adam LaRoche will hit seventh.
“I’m not looking for a classic cleanup hitter, a home run-type run producer,” Riggleman said. “We’re just looking to send up as many good hitters in a row as we can against this left-hander. But I have a lot of confidence in his ability to hit. His stroke has got away from him a little bit lately, but he’s such a good hitter, we feel like any day now, he’s going to come out of it.”
In his first 13 games, Ramos punched up a .375/.426/.563 slash line and was the Nationals’ most productive hitter. In his last 10 games, Ramos is 4 for 35 with four walks and three doubles.
“I was surprised when I saw my name in the cleanup spot,” Ramos said. “A couple days ago, I was struggling. For me today, it’s the start of a new season. I don’t care about what happened before. I’m going to concentrate on tonight, keep working hard. I’m excited for today to see my name in the cleanup spot.”
In Venezuelan winter ball the past two years, Ramos has batted fourth often, and he feels at ease in the middle of the order. “I know what my responsibility is in that spot,” Ramos said. “I have to hit the ball well, try to get runs in. For me, it’s more responsibility.”
Trying to shed his slump, Ramos arrived early today at Nationals Park. Ramos took early batting practice on the field this afternoon at about 3, and prior to that session he hit in the indoor batting cage. On the field, he worked on a drill with hitting coach Rick Eckstein with a focus on hitting the ball to the opposite field.
“I don’t feel comfortable at the plate,” Ramos said. “But I worked today, and it feels great right now. When the season started, I was very, very comfortable. Right now, I need to get relaxed. I’m working to stay back. I’ve been jumping to the ball a little bit. I forget everything the last couple days. Today is a new day.”