NEW YORK - Nationals manager Matt Williams decided to make a big splash to begin the 2014 campaign with a surprise in his lineup. Catcher Wilson Ramos will hit in the cleanup spot on opening day today against the Mets.
It is a rare start at the cleanup spot for Ramos, only the seventh of his career in the majors, which spans 238 games. But he has had a lot of experience in the fourth spot while playing in his native Venezuela.
"I feel excited right now," Ramos said. "Not the first time. I'm not hitting too many times in the cleanup spot in my career here. But I feel comfortable hitting in (that) spot because the last three years in Venezuela, I hit in that spot all those three years. It made me feel comfortable. It made me feel happy because they have confidence in me.
"I am ready. I feel good at the plate. I believe in what I can do. I know I can do well in that spot."
Williams did show this lineup during spring training, and he likes the power potential of Ramos in the cleanup spot with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the two-hole.
"Wilson is one of our best middle-of-lineup guys," Williams said. "In fact, we moved Zim up in the lineup, puts him in a good spot there. Hopefully, today he has a lot of opportunities in that regard."
"It has been a couple of weeks. We look at it. During spring training you want to make sure getting everybody their proper work and the number of at-bats they need. Now that we are here, just for us seems like a good lineup to go out there opening day."
First baseman Adam LaRoche said he and his teammates know all about the potential of Ramos and believes the 26-year-old is ready to prosper.
"You talk anybody that has watched him play or shoot just watch his BP one time, will tell you that he is probably the top in the game as far as up-and-comers, especially at that position," LaRoche said. "(He) legitimately has a chance to hit 40 homers with discipline and take his walks, and shoot the ball the other way to drive in runs. He doesn't say a whole lot and you don't hear a lot about him, but he is a very mature hitter for his age and especially the amount of at-bats he has had."
Shortstop Ian Desmond agrees, and believes Ramos will feel comfortable hitting higher up in the order.
"Everyone that knows him knows that he is capable of doing that," Desmond said. "But now it is just letting the world know it. I think he has had a couple of injuries and he has battled through them and now it is his time. There is no bigger stage."