When Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman laid out his plans for the Washington Nationals' backstops in a late January interview with MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr for an article entitled, "How much will Ivan Rodriguez play in 2011", in which Riggleman predicted that it would, "be a situation where Pudge [Rodriguez] catches two out of three games earlier on in the season. Then as we get in the middle of the year, maybe [Wilson] Ramos or [Jesus] Flores - whoever is the backup - that person starts catching about half the time and we go from there.'"
By the time he made his 2011 debut this past Saturday, Ramos, who'd hit .316/.341/.494 with 3 doubles and 3 HR's in 20 games in the Nats' system after he was acquired last season and hit in 14 of 48 at bats (.292) with 4 2B's and his first major league HR after his call-up to the nation's capital in September, had shown enough that Riggleman and the Nats were comfortable announcing that the two backstops (Flores ended up in Triple-A) would be splitting time behind the plate from the start this season.
"I really don't want him to have a situation like we had in the Spring where he would have a couple days off between starts," the Nats' Manager said, "I thought that he played a lot better in the Spring when he got consecutive days, when he only had a day off, if he had two off, he's a young hitter I think that needs to see some action, so he and Pudge will be splitting it up here quite a bit early." Riggleman stopped short of saying Ramos would assume the role of a no.1 catcher, instead describing the situation as having "two no.1's," while making it clear that, "We're going to move towards [Ramos being no.1]."
But when do the Nats make the move? Following last night's game, in which he went 2 for 5 with two singles, Ramos it 5 for 10 at the plate so far to Pudge Rodriguez's 0 for 6 with one GIDP. In his last 50 games of 2010, Rodriguez posted a .231/.257/.297 slash line with ten double play grounders in 51 games. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern as Spring Training wound down that Pudge is, "taking the mentor job to heart," and knows he's in the "transition phase of his career" and the 39-year-old catcher said as much last weekend, the only question is when the Nats make the transition to Ramos catching full-time.
They've already moved up the date for splitting time 50/50 from midseason to the start of the 2011 campaign, and though Riggleman cautioned that they, "just can't assume that he's going to go out there and overwhelm the league," he's clearly already overwhelmed the competition for playing time behind the plate with the Nats. Riggleman's said that they have two no.1's right now, so the comments the Nats' GM made on 106.7 the FAN in DC's Mike Rizzo show this past Monday about the team's bench players not taking, "one at-bat away from a prospect," don't apply...and Ramos said there are still aspects of his game that need improvement, but the change behind the plate might arrive sooner than later. Wilson Ramos is going to be ready to play every day soon.