A not-quite-house-sized Bryce Harper walked into the Nationals’ clubhouse today, arriving with a bag over his shoulder and carrying a large, plastic case that, one assumes, contained his bats. Harper will meet with the media later today. We’ll find out where he stands in his rehab in his mind. Earlier in the week, Manager Matt Williams said he would be “full go” from the start.
Jeff Kobernus also walked into the clubhouse, which leaves one player we have yet to see: Jayson Werth, a man who knows how to make an entrance. Position players must report today.
Today, then, will be one of the final days of pitchers and catchers working out alone. It has already been a happy week for Wilson Ramos, who at this time last season could not catch a full slate of bullpen sessions. Ramos was still in the final stages of recovering from torn ligaments in his right knee. This season, Ramos can prepare with no health concerns.
“It made me feel happy,” Ramos said. “You just concentrate and keep working hard, do what you have to do. You’re not focusing on the knee and getting healthy. You’re just focusing on going out there and doing your job, play hard. It’s different when you come here and your knee is strong and your hammy is strong. Totally different. I’m very happy to be here healthy, just concentrate on my job, knowing the pitchers and hitting the ball well.”
Ramos was brief when asked for his No. 1 goal this year: “Stay healthy,” he said. Ramos’s health issues extended throughout the entire 2013 season. Although he caught 23 games in a row late in the year, the Nationals restricted Ramos after he twice injured his left hamstring, a common malady for players recovering from torn knees. He trotted around the bases at the Nationals’ behest, hardly jogging out grounders.
Ramos played winter ball in his native Venezuela in order gain confidence in his legs. He scored from second base on singles and sprinted from first to third on base hits. “I can run hard now,” Ramos said. “I don’t have any problems with that in Venezuela. Last year, I was scared to get hurt again. I don’t have any problem with that right now. I have to keep working, keep my hammy strong, get ready for 120, 130 games.”
Ramos, 26, will be entering the peak of his career as a hitter. He has already shown impressive power, especially to the opposite field, but because of injuries, Ramos has not had the chance to compile offensive numbers over a full season. Last year, he blasted 16 homers in just 287 at-bats, a rate bettered by only four sluggers who took enough at-bats to qualify.
In order to take his next step forward, Ramos will have to walk more – he drew 15 free passes last year, which led to a .307 on-base percentage despite a .272 average. Ramos is simply curious what he can produce if he can last a full season.
“I want to take 400 at-bats and see what happens,” Ramos said. “It’s different when you take 270 at-bats and 400. I want to see how I play, and what kind of numbers I can put up, with those at-bats and those games. I want to be ready for that.”