Wilson Ramos was scheduled to return to Washington on Tuesday and have his injured left hand examined by a Baltimore-based specialist for a second opinion. But as of late afternoon, the Nationals had yet to make an announcement about Ramos’s status and were not expected to. Ramos was unavailable to comment, and General Manager Mike Rizzo didn’t respond to requests to comment.
Ramos, 26, is believed to have suffered the injury on a foul tip during Monday’s season opener, Manager Matt Williams said after the game. The right-handed batter felt more pain while he was hitting. During his final at-bat of the game in the seventh inning, Ramos swung only once, struck out looking and watched fastballs go by. He was replaced in the bottom of the inning by backup Jose Lobaton.
Williams said the x-rays on Ramos’s hand were negative, but the team was clearly concerned enough to send the catcher to a specialist on Tuesday’s offday and were considering calling up a backup catcher as reinforcement. Jhonathan Solano remained at Class AAA Syracuse as of Tuesday morning. Class AA Harrisburg catcher Sandy Leon, who survived spring training camp cuts longer, is also an option.
According to a person close to Ramos, the catcher believes he has a fractured bone in his left hand. His friend and public relations assistant in Venezuela, Marfa Mata, posted on Twitter on Monday night that Ramos told her that he had a broken bone in his hand. Before he left the game, Ramos told Lobaton to start warming up because he was going to come out because of the pain.
In the final week of spring training, Ramos had a giant ice pack wrapped his left hand. Bench coach Randy Knorr, who coaches the catchers, said during a Tuesday morning appearance on the team’s flagship station, 106.7 FM, that he was concerned about Ramos.
“He did this about a week about a week ago,” Knorr said. “We were down in Jupiter and he took a swing. That part of being a bench coach, I watch all that stuff, too. Like if a guy pulls up lame or something doesn’t look right. And I noticed that. He came in after an at-bat in Jupiter and I said, ‘Hey, you all right, man?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. My wrist feels funny.’
“And then [Monday], we were watching that last at-bat he had and he took a swing, like the second pitch he took a swing and fouled it off over the first base dugout. Rick Schu, our hitting coach, came over and said, ‘Randy, did you see that?’ I say yeah. And then he took a fastball down the middle. Wilson Ramos has never taken a fastball down the middle. Ever. So when he came in, I said, ‘What’s going on with you, man?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.’
“So we took him out of the game. I don’t know. He’s flying up to a hand doctor [Tuesday], but for Wilson Ramos to come out of the game, it just doesn’t look good. I try to stay positive. Go to the doctor, maybe it’s not as bad as people think it is. Maybe it is two or three days. I try to stay that way, but in my mind, just seeing guys in my career, it just doesn’t look good.”
Initial x-rays of hands and wrists don’t always reveal fractures. Last season, infielder Danny Espinosa was hit on the wrist by a pitch early in the season. The initial x-ray results were negative, and he was diagnosed with a bone bruise. Espinosa played for nearly a month and later discovered he was playing with a fractured wrist. Initial swelling was believed to be obscuring the fracture.
The hand is made up of 27 bones, so there is plenty of opportunities to hurt one. The hamate bone is a common hand bone for baseball players to break. According to the Mayo Clinic, x-rays sometimes don’t show fractures where the bone is merely cracked, and tests such as MRIs, and CT and bone scans are needed.
Ramos was not in the clubhouse after Monday’s game. He did, however, post a message in English and Spanish on Twitter around 9 p.m. “Thanks to everybody for your support i love you i will be back soon,” he wrote.
Regardless of Tuesday’s evaluation and the severity of Ramos’s injury, it is another piece of bad luck for the catcher. The Nationals believe he has all the tools to be a top-five catcher in baseball, and he shown glimpses of it, but he has played just 103 games over the past two seasons because of knee surgery in 2012 and hamstring strains in 2013.
“It’s tough to see anybody go through it,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “You really hate it. He’s been through a bunch and the guy just wants to play. It always seems like something jumps up and grabs him. Let’s hope this isn’t a big deal.”