The Nationals are off Tuesday, the lone off-day of spring training
VIERA, Fla. — Wilson Ramos knows he has played only seven games since he underwent Lasik surgery to correct his vision. But despite the small sample size, the catcher believes the procedure has already made a noticeable impact. Earlier in the week, sitting at his locker halfway across the clubhouse, he pointed to the bulletin board with daily schedules and proclaimed that he could see that now when he couldn’t before. He smiled broadly.
Crouched behind the plate, Ramos said he is seeing pitches better. In the batter’s box, the 28-year-old said the same is happening. He can more clearly see the difference between curveballs, change-ups and sliders now, and any split second improvement in vision can mean the difference between striking out and taking a pitch.
Ramos insists that his 6 for 18 with two home runs — including a solo shot he added Monday — and only three strikeouts is a direct result of the improvement in his eyesight.
“I can see the difference now,” he said after Monday’s game. “I can recognize the pitch well and not swing at bad pitches. That make [me] feel comfortable and excited because before I was swinging at everything, balls or strikes. I was feeling very mad sometimes because I’d say, ‘That’s a very bad pitch. Why am I swinging?’ Now I feel more comfortable at the plate. I know it’s [seven] games after surgery but I can see the difference. I feel more comfortable.”
Ramos had his healthiest season in years in 2015, but his offense cratered with more playing time. He posted his worst offensive season, hitting .229 with 15 home runs, 68 RBI and a career-worst .616 OPS over 128 games. He also struck out 20 percent of his plate appearances, the highest mark of his six-year career. He is entering his walk year- and his potential final season in Nationals uniform — so his eyesight improvement comes at a fortuitous time.
“I feel more excited because now I feel amazing at the plate,” he said. “I can see the ball really really well. That help me to feel more confident at the plate. Just to swing at balls in the strike zone and not swing at bad pitches. I want to help my team. I want to do a better job than last year.”
On defense, Ramos said he is seeing the ball better, too. He had a strong defensive season, in some ways, last season so it wasn’t affecting him that.
Even then, “sometimes before, I lost the ball blinking,” Ramos said. “Sometimes I lost the ball. Now, it feels better. That’s amazing.”
In the offseason, Ramos trained even harder than ever for this season. He ate healthier and hired a trainer. He lost fat and added muscle. Two rival scouts noted that Ramos looks in better shape this spring. Before games started in spring training, Ramos went home and worked out even more. The successes — and especially the failures — of last season are driving him.
“Could be his eyes,” Manager Dusty Baker said. “Could be his weight. He’s in the best shape of his life. I don’t know if it’s his eyes or not but I know, if you can’t see, you can’t hit.”
DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY: 13