At first, catcher Wilson Ramos felt pain. When he fouled off a pitch in the seventh inning of the season opener in New York on March 31, his hand screamed at him. “That was very hard,” he said. He knew he had to remove himself from the game.
Two days later, the Nationals catcher and opening day cleanup hitter underwent surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left hand. Again, the 26-year-old landed on the disabled list. Then came the frustration.
Ramos was in the Nationals clubhouse on Tuesday and spoke for the first time since the injury. He is doing his best to stay positive, but it hasn’t been easy to push past the disappointment.
“I feel better right now,” he said. “My hand feels good. Just waiting to start my treatment right now. Just try to turn the page. It’s really hard for me for my mind right now. I feel unlucky. Those things happen. You have to keep working and try to be ready for when I come back.”
Unlucky may be an understatement. Ramos was kidnapped in his native Venezuela in 2011; he badly damaged his knee and needed surgery in 2012; he hurt his hamstring several times in 2013; only seven innings into the season he hoped would be healthiest yet, he left with a broken bone in his hand. He possess all the tools to be among the best catchers in baseball — a good signal caller, a strong throwing arm and powerful bat — but his body has betrayed him. He has played in only 104 games since the beginning of 2012.
“It’s very hard to go to your bed and think three years in a row getting hurt,” he said. “Three years in a row on the DL. I just put everything in God’s hands. Everything happen for one reason. I have to wait. I have to wait and see what happens. Hopefully that was the last one. I have to keep working and I will do it.”
Ramos, who was sporting a bandage on the bottom of his left hand, said doctors told him he can begin his rehab 14 days after surgery, which would start with exercises next week. The stitches would have to be removed, too. Doctors also told him the recovery time is four to eight weeks, but Manager Matt Williams has said he believes Ramos can return in four to six weeks. Ramos has found solace in his teammates who have also undergone the surgery, such as Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.
“A lot of people here had that same surgery so that made me feel a little bit better,” Ramos said. “A lot of guys here get that surgery and they tell me it’s a good recovery and that made me feel a little bit good. It’s very hard for me in my career to be a lot of time on DL three years in a row. But I’m still here. I’m working hard. Hopefully be good soon.”
Ramos is unsure exactly how the bone broke but felt the worst pain on the swing in his final at-bat of the season opener. He dealt with wrist discomfort the final week of spring training but said treatment then was helping and the pain was unrelated to his hamate bone. Williams has said hamate bone issues often first appear as wrist pain, but nothing then indicated that the hamate bone was an issue.
“I was feeling just a little bit sore,” Ramos said. “Every morning I was doing my treatment and I was feeling good. For me, the weather in New York affect me a little bit. That happens. You have to be strong and come back soon.”