Wilson Ramos has already put on a power display this spring. On Friday afternoon, in a 8-5 win over the Houston Astros in Viera, Ramos did it again. With two runners on and facing left-handed starter Brett Oberholtzer, Ramos hit a ball so far out it not only flew over the “World of Beer” deck beyond in left field but cleared the trees beyond it. The strong winds also helped, but unofficial estimates had the ball carrying close to 450 feet.
“It was pretty far,” said Bryce Harper. Added Manager Matt Williams, smiling: “That was a long one.”
After he rounded the bases, Ramos was teased by teammates for benefiting from the windy conditions. “They were laughing at me,” he said. When talking with reporters afterward, Ramos flashed a broad grin when asked about the home run. “It was a good one,” he said. Asked how much the wind helped, he said: “Not that much. I hit that ball well.”
Ramos said that was probably the farthest he has ever hit a ball. He has felt good all camp at the plate, he said, because of the time he spent in his native Venezuela playing winter ball as a designated hitter.
“Those at-bats help me to concentrate a little bit more at the plate and be patient and in the strike zone,” he said. “I wanted to come here and take good at-bats and swing at strikes. Right now, I’m working on that, working on the strike zone. That help me to hit the ball well.”
If Ramos isn’t atop many forecasters’s lists for 2014 breakout stars, he should be. He has the potential to be among the best catchers in baseball with a healthy season. His continued strong showing this spring offers further proof of what could be in store.
“He’s strong,” Williams said. “He’s really strong. With me, the best attribute he’s got is his ability to drive the ball the other way. He does that a lot, too. [Friday], he got one out front. A little wind-aided but that would have got out any park, too.”
>>> Rafael Soriano, the last pitcher to make his spring debut, came on in the fifth inning and allowed two runs on two singles and double. He focused on the strike zone with his fastball and less so on the results. He said he felt good despite allowing the runs. He hopes to improve his slider in the remaining outings, the pitch that he struggled with during stretches last season.
“I have a couple bullpens and I feel my slider is there,” Soriano said. “That’s all that matter to me. I think I throw a couple sliders and not bad for the first time.”
Soriano is slated to throw about nine innings this spring. Williams wants to limit the late-inning relievers’s workloads, but Soriano also prefers a light spring load to save himself for the season. Soriano appeared to be easing himself into his spring schedule with a relaxed demeanor on the mound on Friday.
“That’s pretty typical of guys who close games,” Williams said. “They’re not worried about stats in spring training. They’re making sure that they’re arm strength is there.”
>>> Tanner Roark, who is competing for the final spot in the starting rotation, made his second start of the spring. He was originally scheduled to piggback starter Doug Fister, but was moved to starter after Fister’s MRI showed elbow inflammation. Roark allowed one run, a home run, over 2 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and struck out three. He threw 49 pitches, 20 of them for strikes.
The windy conditions moved Roark’s pitches more than normal, and he felt his sinker diving a lot. He lacked aggressiveness in some at-bats, he said, and tried nibbling around the strike zone some. The normally efficient Roark hopes to improve in his next outing.
“It was alright,” he said. “I coulda finished off hitters a little better than what I did. Getting ahead a little bit more. Other than that, felt pretty good.”
>>> Tyler Moore went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts on Friday. He has seven strikeouts in 15 at-bats and managed only three hits. Zach Walters continues his early hot hitting, smacking a two-run single in the sixth inning. He is 7 for 9 with four extra-base hits this spring.
>>> Jerry Blevins fired 1 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only one baserunner. Christian Garcia threw 1 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on two hits and walked one. He also struck out three.