May 14, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Sandy Leon (41) looks to the dugout during the game against the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
When Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos was injured earlier this season, suffering a torn ACL in his right knee, backup backstop Jesus Flores was already injured, dealing with hamstring strain, so the Nats reached down to Double-A Harrisburg for 23-year-old Venezuelan-born catcher Sandy Leon. The 23-year-old receiver, who had a .317/.358/.446 line in 29 games and 110 plate appearances before he got the call, lasted all of one game, getting his first MLB at bat out of the way before he was injured on a play at the plate that resulted in a high ankle sprain. Late Friday night, after Washington's win over the San Francisco Giants, the Nationals announced that they had returned Leon from a rehab assignment, reinstated the catcher and optioned him back to Double-A Harrisburg after a short stint with the New York/Penn League's Auburn Doubledays, where Leon was 5 for 15 with two doubles in five games before his rehab ended.
Leon is in the lineup for the Double-A Senators tonight, catching highly-regarded prospect Daniel Rosenbaum as Harrisburg takes on the Bowie Baysox. Meanwhile, in Washington on Wednesday, the catcher who was called up to replace Leon on the Nats' roster when Leon was injured, 26-year-old Jhonatan "Onion" Solano, continued to hit in the Nationals' 4th of July win over the Giants, going 2 for 4 with an opposite field home run (his second), leaving him with a .393/.414/.714 line, three doubles and two home runs in nine games and 28 at bats. The depth in the organization that's allowed the Nationals to deal with the injury to Ramos, who was supposed to get the bulk of the time behind the plate this season, is something that's impressed the Nationals' manager, as he explained after today's game.
Asked if he was surprised how successful Solano's been in his time in the majors since he debuted back on May 29th, Davey Johnson said simply, "No."
"I've said before," Johnson continued, "I've never seen such depth in catching as this organization. From Ramos, [Flores], Solano, Leon, [Carlos] Maldonado, I mean, all of them [are] great receivers, catch-and-throw, block balls great and all of them good bat potential. I've never been in an organization -- like I said, this is my fifth one -- [with depth] anywhere close to that." And that's not even counting the other backstops in the system, even after the trade this past winter that sent Derek Norris to Oakland, like 23-year-old David Freitas, the 2010 15th Rounder who has a .279/.384/.397 line with 15 doubles and three home runs at Class-A Potomac, or 22-year-old Adrian Nieto (.259/.331/.403 w/ eight doubles and four home runs at Low-A Hagerstown), the Nats' '08 5th Round pick.
• One other rehab note: Nats' bench bat Chad Tracy, who suffered a groin injury that required surgery in late May, started his rehab assigment in Class-A Potomac today, where he'll likely be joined by reliever Drew Storen (elbow) and Xavier Nady (wrist) on Thursday. The P-Nats announced this morning via Twitter (@PNats42) that Tracy, the 32-year-old who was 6 for 23 with a double and a homer as a pinch hitter off Davey Johnson's bench (.265/.327/.510 overall) was in tonight's lineup:
Chad Tracy is batting 2nd and playing DH for the Potomac Nationals tonight!— Potomac Nationals (@PNats42) July 4, 2012
Davey Johnson sounded eager to get his bench bat back, telling reporters Wednesday afternoon, "Tracy was unbelievable early," coming off the bench, "And we need him back. He, arguably, was my best hitter coming off the bench against just about any pitching." Tracy hit a sac fly RBI in his first at bat for the P-Nats tonight as they take on the Frederick Keys in Carolina League action.