Wilson Ramos will catch nine innings Monday night at Class AA Harrisburg, a rehab appearance Manager Matt Williams called Ramos’s “final test” before he can return to the Nationals after missing more than a month following surgery to remove the hamate in his left hand.
Sunday afternoon, serving as a designated hitter, Ramos went 2 for 3 at Class A Hagerstown with a home run and a walk. Previously, Ramos had smashed two homers in an appearance at extended spring training in Viera, Fla. The home runs are an especially positive sign — because many hitters who undergo hamate bone surgery recapture their power slowly.
“We would love for him to run the bases more,” Williams said. “The problem is, he’s been hitting it over the fence.”
Williams said catching nine innings will test Ramos’s ability to absorb, “constant pounding on the hand.” So far, Ramos has experienced no setbacks. Ramos could return Tuesday or Wednesday, but the Nationals may give him extra time and summon him Friday in Oakland, where he could serve as the DH.
“All things point to him being available at some point this week,” Williams said. “Exactly when, we don’t know. We just have to see how he goes, see how he feels after today.”
Ramos, who hit cleanup opening day, should make an enormous impact on the Nationals’ lineup. In Ramos’s place, Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon have hit .216 with a .632 OPS, which ranks 25th and 26th in the majors, respectively.
His past success catching Stephen Strasburg may offer them incentive to bring Ramos back for Strasburg’s start Wednesday. In 27 starts throwing to Ramos, his most with any catcher, Strasburg has a 2.97 ERA, and opposing hitters have batted .211 against him.
Leon is making his second straight start. Lobaton left Saturday night’s game after he was hit in the shin with an A.J. Burnett fastball. Lobaton said he could play.
“I don’t know if he just wants to give me another day,” Lobaton said. “I’m ready.”
“That thing swelled up pretty good,” Williams said. “He’s available.”