When Washington Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos talked to the Washington Post's James Wagner for a late-season article on his plans for the winter, the 26-year-old, Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela-born backstop told the WaPost reporter he'd like to play in his home country this offseason, but didn't think he would:
"'It’s not that I don’t want to play [in the Venezuelan winter league], but everything that has happened with injuries, I need to work on my body,' he said. 'I really do want to play in Venezuela. I have experience there. I like playing there. But I can miss a year there and recover and work hard on my legs and make sure I maintain it here.'"
Ramos, acquired by the Nationals from the Minnesota Twins in 2010, suffered a season-ending tear of the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in 2012 but returned in time for Opening Day last season. Two hamstring injuries limited his time behind the plate in 2013, but he came back in early July and put together an impressive stretch, including an MLB-best among catchers 23 starts in-a-row. In the final 64 games and 251 plate appearances, the Nats' catcher had a .276/.307/.477 line with six doubles and 14 HRs between July 4th and the final game of the season.
Ramos has apparently changed his mind about playing at home in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional this winter, however. Ramos played his third game of the year for the Tigres on Friday night. An El Nacional article on the Nats' catcher explained that he started working out with the team earlier this month, but still wasn't sure about playing after the recent injuries, especially since he's eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.
In a 10-4 Tigres' win over the Cardenales de Lara, Ramos was 2 for 3 with two walks on Friday night, leaving him 5 for 11 with three walks and two Ks in three games for Aragua in which he's DH'd rather than catching. Ramos couldn't play in Venezuela last winter, but he did play in his home country in 2011 even after the headline-grabbing kidnapping drama the catcher endured that November. Coming off a .267/.334/.445, 22 double, 15 HR, +3.0 fWAR season in 2011 in his first full year with the Nats, Ramos went 19 for 87 with two doubles and a home run in 25 games for the Tigres.
He had a .265/.354/.398 line with two doubles and three home runs in 25 games and 96 PAs in 2012 before suffering the knee injury. In 78 games total this past season, Ramos had a .272/.307/.470 line, nine doubles and 16 HRs in 303 PAs over which he was worth +1.8 fWAR. Outgoing Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters late in his final year on the bench that he thought the catcher proved a point with his play when he came back from the DL this year.
"You can get labeled as injury-prone," Johnson told reporters. "For him to come back and catch as good and as often as he has, just proves his point. He's durable."
Ramos played on a 1-year/$501,250 contract in 2013. MLBTraderumors.com projected a $2.1M salary for Ramos in 2014.
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