Wilson Ramos gently tapped the top of his head with his fists as his name reverberated through Nationals Park on Tuesday night. He was standing along the third base line for pregame introductions in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform as a member of the American League all-star team, but he’s still “The Buffalo” in Washington, still a beloved figure after spending parts of seven seasons as the local team’s catcher. It was a reunion few envisioned.
Ramos didn’t play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game because of a hamstring injury, but fans voted him in as the AL’s starting catcher, a deserving nod for a man whose career was in question less than two years ago. It was then, in September 2016, when Ramos tore his anterior cruciate ligament at Nationals Park, throwing a wrench in his first all-star season just months before hitting free agency.
This week, months before he is set to jump back into the free agency waters, the 30-year-old returned to Washington as an all-star for a second time with a .297 batting average, 14 home runs and an .834 OPS.
“This one is more [special] for me because I’m coming back from the knee injury and that makes me feel strong mentally because I’m showing everybody in baseball what I can do,” Ramos said Monday. “I still can play this game. I know a lot of people [thought I wouldn’t be the same] when I got hurt, but right now everybody can look at my name up with the better players in baseball right now. So that makes me feel very happy.”
Ramos’s strong contract-year performance for a club on the playoff race’s outskirts has made him a trade candidate, though his injury could complicate matters for a three-month rental. A few teams, including the Nationals, could use an upgrade at catcher.
The Nationals expressed interest in Ramos before the injury, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, but they could ride it out with Matt Wieters, who recently came off the disabled list, or seek help elsewhere. Other possibilities include Miami Marlins all-star J.T. Realmuto, the New York Mets’ Devin Mesoraco, and the San Diego Padres’ A.J. Ellis.
Ultimately, how much time Ramos is expected to miss could determine whether he is traded before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Asked if there was a timetable for his return, Ramos said a plan hasn’t been installed yet.
“When I get back after the break, I’m going to get checked out by the doctor and we’ll make a decision on how long I’ll be out,” Ramos said. “I just pulled the hamstring a bit. It’s not a big deal.”
If it proves to not be, maybe his appearance at Nationals Park on Tuesday won’t be his last in 2018. If it was, it was brief, but one he’ll never forget.
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