(John McDonnell / The Washington Post) (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

Just like his gradual nine-month rehab program, Wilson Ramos sees his progress in spring training in small steps. He was allowed to hit in games. He recently started catching in games again. So when took third base in the third inning of Friday’s game on a wild pitch and slide safely on his surgically-repaired knee, he was extremely pleased, more so with the reasoning behind running.

“When I ran from second to third base, my adrenaline kicked in and made me do it,” he said. “I wasn’t worried when I slid. I didn’t even think about my knee. I thought just about the game. The adrenaline of the game made me do it. I didn’t think about my knee until I was standing at third.”

The physical part of returning to action has already been conquered. Ramos caught three innings on Friday, the second time he has started behind the plate since tearing his ACL and meniscus last May. Because Ramos’ knee has responded so encouragingly, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson wants to alternate Ramos and Kurt Suzuki as starters for the rest of the spring. Ramos, of course, wants to play more than a few innings each time. “That’s my mentality,” he said.

For now, Ramos is overcoming the mental reservations. He wants to re-learn the Nationals’ pitchers, especially the new ones. And he wants to be in a comfortable place mentally where he isn’t thinking about his knee when he plays, runs or jumps. On Friday, at least, he was pleased that his baseball instincts took over and not concerns of the most harrowing injury of his career.

“That’s something I’ve been trying to do,” he said. “You know, taking care of my knee but not letting it consume me mentally. I’m relaxing more and playing baseball like I’ve done for so many years.”