Nats' skipper Davey Johnson talked catching before Wednesday afternoon's game against the Miami Marlins. Wilson Ramos, the Washington Nationals' 70-year-old manager said, was probably a week away from entering the lineup as a designated hitter. "He's going through some testing today," Johnson said, "He had the measurements on [his knee] and the measurements came out pretty good. The leg is doing great. He's probably a week away from taking some DHing." The tests on the 25-year-old catcher's leg are to gauge the strength of his surgically repaired knee. Ramos had two separate procedures performed last summer when he tore the ACL and meniscus.
"His strength is probably around 92-95[%]," in the right leg Johnson said. "But they do different kinds of tests and then I think [team doctor Wiemi Douoguih] is coming in on the weekend and he'll look in too. But my concern is [Ramos] is... he's doing everything and I'd like to get him some at bats." Johnson noted that Ramos continues to swing the bat well in BP, but hasn't played in a game since suffering the injury and once he does, Johnson said he'd be more comfortable that Ramos will be ready for Opening Day, "... but that all depends on the medical team," the manager added.
The presence of 29-year-old catcher Kurt Suzuki, as the Nats noted this winter and again early this Spring, will allow the Nationals to bring Ramos along at whatever pace is necessary. After his arrival in a trade from Oakland last summer, Suzuki was rejuvenated and during the stretch run the former A's backstop put up a .267/.321/.404 line with five doubles and five home runs in 43 games and 164 plate appearances. In the last month-plus of the season, Suzuki posted a .301/.355/.482 line as he got to work with and know all of the Nationals' pitchers.
The process of getting acquainted with the Nats' staff was made easier by Suzuki according to Johnson. "He's a real quick study," Johnson said, "He's real smart. He wants to catch everybody. I mean, this Spring, anybody that's going to throw he was right there and staying late and getting extra work and if anybody needed to throw, he loves to catch, loves to play. I've actually had to sit on him. He would have loved to have played in every one of these games."
Johnson wasn't kidding either. Dan Haren talked yesterday about being in sync with Suzuki, who last caught him when both were teammates with the A's in 2007. When Haren threw a bullpen session earlier this Spring, he said Suzuki showed up to make sure he was catching the Nats' newest starter. Late in Haren's first start on Wednesday, he shook Suzuki off and a reporter asked afterwards if they were just getting on the same page early in Spring Training. "I was trying to work on something," Haren said, "Actually Kurt was pretty much in sync with me today, which is really hard to do."
"He was nice enough, he was catching the other day, the game here," Haren said, "And I haven't thrown to him since 2007 in Oakland, and he hadn't caught me all Spring, and he was catching that day, starting and he came out early and caught my bullpen, so he's trying to work with me, I'm trying to work with him."
"And I'm not the easiest guy to catch either," Haren admitted, "Just because of the way I like to game plan towards hitters and the different things I like to do with the ball. So, it's not so straighforward like fastball, curve ball, changeup. A lot of it is location and setting up hitters."
Suzuki and Haren will surely be on the same page by Opening Day, and as Haren said, "Kurt has the benefit too that he's faced me quite a few times. Even just as recently as last year, so he kind of has an idea of how I want to pitch, and he even had some suggestions on how the A's were approaching me and they had one or two pretty good games off me, so what their mind-set was going into the game... I use that to my advantage and try to get into the minds of the hitters."
Smart catcher + smart pitcher. Look out.