Early this season, the Nationals employed a two-tier catching system with Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki alternating games. In that rotation, both players produced well. But since opening day, Ramos has spent most of his time on the disabled list with hamstring injuries, playing in only 14 of the Nationals’ 67 games. Suzuki has handled the overwhelming majority of the catching duties, playing in 49 games and starting 47 times.
Since Ramos’s strained his hamstring on May 15, Suzuki has started 21 of 26 games and at the plate his production has dropped. He is hitting .190 (15 for 79) with two doubles, seven walks and 12 strikeouts in that span. Suzuki, 29, has always prided himself in being a a catcher first and hitter next, and playing every day. But asked if the heavy load of catching every day since Ramos’s injury was wearing on Suzuki, Manager Davey Johnson dismissed the idea.
“I don’t think you can wear him out,” Johnson said on Saturday. “I think he has more energy than anyone on the club. He’s here [at the stadium] when almost I get here.”
Johnson has spelled Suzuki three times in the past week with back-up catcher Jhonatan Solano; twice because of the scheduling. Suzuki caught one game of last Sunday’s doubleheader and didn’t start Sunday’s day game which followed a night game.
Even though his offensive numbers have declined over the years, Suzuki played well every day after being acquired from Oakland in an August trade. He hit .267 with a .725 OPS in 43 games as as a National last season and handled the pitching staff well. Through 49 games this season, he has a .215 average and .600 OPS. Solano is hitting .167 (4 for 24) in limited playing time. Nationals catchers have combined to hit .220, 23rd in the majors, and posted a .621 OPS, ranked 27th.
A struggling Nationals offense would welcome Suzuki’s return to 2012 form and the return of Ramos’ power bat when he is ready. He is, however, weeks away and could begin a rehab assignment at the end of the month. In the little he played in between injuries, Ramos hit .250 with with a .745 OPS and two home runs in 52 plate appearances.
“I know [Suzuki] was doing pretty good when I had them both,” Johnson said. “They were both doing pretty good. When you have injuries, it’s usually an opportunity for other people to pick up the slack. And we’ve had a hard time. Guys have been given opportunities and they just haven’t done it.”