Wilson Ramos walked through the clubhouse, wearing his workout gear and a bat in hand. After 50 days away from the Nationals, Ramos, the final missing piece of the lineup, was finally back — yet again from another injury. Before the game, and just before beginning to play catch in right field with bullpen coach Jim Lett, Ramos held the baseball to his chest, looked quickly up at the sky and took in the moment.
“It was a long rehab for me, not as long as last year, but still long,” he said, standing in front of his locker as an active member of the Nationals roster for the first time since May 15. “I’m excited to be back, especially in this moment, with these games, the team hitting the ball, they’re playing good. But for me, I think I can help the team a little bit and I will try to do my best effort to help the team.”
Ramos, 25, has played in only 14 of the Nationals’ 84 games this season. He has been sidelined twice by a left hamstring string, the second one requiring a long rehab and missing the past 44 games on the disabled list. He dealt with the first hamstring strain in early May, then two weeks after returning fell again with the same injury. The Nationals and Ramos were far more cautious this time around, spending six weeks rehabbing the leg. Two weeks ago, he felt that his hamstring was fine but both sides wanted to be sure.
“I was concentrating on getting my hammy more strong and 100 percent because when I get hurt, being on the DL,” he said. ” I was running down in Florida and I was feeling great day by day, but those guys over there, they paid a lot of attention to me and my hamstring.”
His long rehab days in Viera weren’t all boring or lonely as he spent time with his younger brother, David, 21, a right-handed reliever playing for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate. Ramos played two games` for the GCL team on rehab, and went hitless in his three games at Class A Potomac, focusing more on his running and defense.
Ramos’ return allows the Nationals to fully evaluate their struggling offense. Bryce Harper returned this week and Ramos, a power-hitting right-handed bat, completes their once-injured and projected lineup for the first time since April 14, excluding the swap of Anthony Rendon for Danny Espinosa.
Ramos will be thrown right into action, starting Thursday and slated to catch again on Friday’s night game. Manager Davey Johnson was cautious with Ramos early in the season, alternating him every other day with Kurt Suzuki out of fear for overworking Ramos’ surgically-repaired knee. In Ramos’ absence, Suzuki hit .209/.252/.271 and caught 36 of the team’s 44 games, a large workload. In order to make room for Ramos, the Nationals optioned back-up catcher Jhonatan Solano to Class AAA Syracuse. For now, Johnson will lean on Ramos again.
“I need to try to get Ramos to where he can catch and it’s not a problem,” he said. It’ll be something I check with him and see how he’s doing.”
Ramos said he will maintain his hamstring with exercises in the swimming pool throughout the season. The fear that he may hurt it again running hard on a ground ball or another difficult play hasn’t fully subsided, but he hopes it will soon.
“It’s a little bit hard because I’m a little bit scared to get hurt again,” he said. “But you know right now I’m mentally 100 percent hard, strong. I don’t want to think about that. I want to go out there and play hard and try to do my best effort.”