During 20 games in spring training, Ramos batted .354. He had a .392 on-base percentage. His OPS was .871.
The Nationals expected a lot from Ramos and he hasn’t disappointed. They traded closer Matt Capps to Minnesota in July for Ramos because it’s rare when catching prospects have high ceilings defensively and offensively. All indications are that Ramos has the total package.
With the Twins, he was stuck behind all-star Joe Mauer. There’s no shame in having your path blocked by the game’s best catcher. Rodriguez previously held the title for about 16 years.
Now, it’s time to see where Ramos fits in on the list, and “we don’t want to stunt his progress because he’s got a chance to be real good,” Riggleman said. “It’s gonna be tough with Pudge because he loves to play.”
The task of managing the transition, obviously, falls to the manager. Rizzo also has spoken with Rodriguez about the organization’s commitment to developing Ramos, who Rodriguez acknowledges is “great. He’s a tremendous catcher. He’s got a tremendous future in this game.”
Riggleman began laying the groundwork last season, pinch-hitting for Rodriguez once with the bases loaded. Riggleman also dropped him to eighth in the order because that would be his usual spot this season. Still, the Rodriguez-Ramos change isn’t easy.
But it is what it is, Riggleman said.
“I remember years ago, [Baltimore Hall of Fame manager] Earl Weaver said the toughest thing he ever had to do in baseball was pinch-hit for [Hall of Fame third baseman] Brooks Robinson,” Riggleman said. “Earl loved Brooks Robinson and . . . it’s tough for me. It’s gonna be tough for Pudge. But it’s a transition that will be made.”
Rodriguez wants to continue playing for the Nationals, and they’d like that as well. Ideally, he would “mentor Ramos in the future here as the second guy,” Riggleman said.
The Nationals aren’t interested in casting aside Rodriguez.
They believe there’s a place for a sage, hard-working veteran in an organization that plans to promote many talented, inexperienced players during the next few seasons. They appreciate what Rodriguez has accomplished and value his leadership by example. They still need what he could offer — just not as much of it as he would prefer to provide.