Eleven days after Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos was rescued by Venezuelan police forces some fifty hours after he'd been kidnapped from the front of his family's home by armed gunmen, the Nats' 24-year-old Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela-born backstop made his 2011 debut tonight for the Tigres de Aragua in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional. Ramos, who was in his home country preparing for action when the headline-making kidnapping occurred, traveled to the nation's capital last week to meet with the team doctors and deliver a message to the Nationals fans. "I just want to say thanks Nats fans for your prayers and your support," Ramos said, "I'm happy to be here, happy to be with my family and see you in Spring Training." Before Spring Training, however, Ramos was determined to play in Venezuela.
"Wilson started working out the last couple days with the club," the Nats' GM informed reporters, "And if all goes well, he'll play his first game on Tuesday." Late this afternoon, the Tigres de Aragua (@OficialTigres) posted this picture on the team's official Twitter account. Ramos' last name was Sharpied in in place of a crossed-out name batting fourth as the Tigres' DH for their matchup against the Tiburones de la Guaira.
Ramos was quoted after he was rescued from his abductors back on November 11th telling reporters he was eager to get back on the field in his home country as soon as possible, "'As soon as I feel all right, I’m going to start playing as a thank you to Venezuela for the support,'" Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak quoted Ramos telling Viva Colorado.com reporter Rafael Rojas last week. Asked if he had any second thoughts about Ramos returning to Venezuela last Friday, the Nats' GM said clearly, "No, I've had no second thoughts about him playing Winter Ball. He plays in his country for his country because he's very prideful of his country and loves where he lives."
The former Minnesota Twins' prospect acquired in a July 2010 trade for reliever Matt Capps played for the Tigres de Aragua last winter where Ramos put up a .322/.390/.567 line with 17 doubles and nine home runs in 47 games. Ramos took over as the Nats' no.1 catcher early last season, relegating future Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez to a part-time role. Ramos finished his first full major league season in the nation's capital with a .267/.334/.445 line, 22 doubles, 15 HR's, a .993 fld% and a 32% CS% in 113 games and 435 plate appearances for the Nationals.
Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters at the end of the 2011 season that he'd spoken to his catcher about working on his swing this winter if he did play in Venezuela. "I talked to him a little bit about his swing," Johnson said, "I thought he [has] just a little tendency to sometimes be a little too much upper cut. But he's worked on it a little bit here and I like his progress. I like where he's at, he's getting right to where he needs to be, fine-tuning it might [not] be a bad idea." In his first game of the winter tonight, Ramos was 0 for 5 with two K's in the Tigres' 4-3 loss to the Tiburones.