In the moments before the first pitch of the season, Wilson Ramos was in the bullpen, Stephen Strasburg’s final warm-up pitches smacking his mitt. He thought about how long it had been and how much he had done to get there, and it nearly overwhelmed him.
“When I was in the bullpen, I was almost crying,” Ramos said. “I feel like today, that was my first game in the big leagues. I had a lot of work to do this year.”
After a spring that began with uncertainty and ended with him earning the opening day start, Ramos officially returned to the major leagues in the Nationals’ 2-0 victory. Ramos had not played in a big leaguer since May 12 of last season, when he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee. The injury required two surgeries and more than a half a year of rehab.
Manager Davey Johnson gave Ramos the start as “kind of a carrot for hard work.” He also wanted Kurt Suzuki, the Nationals’ co-starting catcher, to be behind the plate for No. 2 starter Gio Gonzalez, his former teammate in Oakland.
And so Ramos played this afternoon, the moment he had thought about all spring training. He went 1 for 2 with a hard single to left and a walk, making him one of only three Nationals to reach base multiple times. He also played a key role in the Nationals’ odd 7-2-3-4-2 double play in the seventh inning.
On that play, Ramos caught a bullet throw from Danny Espinosa and tagged Giancarlo Stanton out at the plate. It was a routine play, but also the kind of quick tag he struggled with at the start of 2012, before he injured his knee.
Ramos also steered Strasburg through his tremendous start, seven shutout innings in which he allowed three hits. Both reliever Tyler Clippard and Strasburg raved about throwing to him.
“He’s a big target,” Strasburg said. “Receives really well. And once we get on the same page, it’s just like auto-pilot. You just go out there and don’t overanalyze or overthink, and just throw the pitch.”
Said Clippard: “It’s almost like he never left. I felt very comfortable with him. We were on the same page the whole night. I’m just happy for him.”