Catching a new pitcher for the first time might seem like a challenge. For Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who returned from the disabled list today to form a battery with rookie right-hander Taylor Jordan, the new alignment might help keep his mind off the left hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup since May 15.
"It was a long rehab for me. ... I'm excited to be back," Ramos said Thursday morning in the Nats clubhouse. "For me, I feel like I can help the team a little bit. I will try to do my best."
Ramos was activated off the 15-day disabled list Thursday morning after a five-game minor league rehabilitation assignment that took him to both the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals and high Single-A Potomac. He was 0-for-13 between the two stops, but felt no lingering after-effects of the injury, which has twice sent him to the DL this season.
To make room for Ramos on the 25-man roster, catcher Jhonatan Solano was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
The hamstring hasn't been an issue for two weeks, Ramos said. He's been concentrating on making sure the hammy was strong enough to withstand the rigors of catching so he didn't reinjure it for a third time.
"I was running down there in Florida and was feeling great day by day," he said.
Ramos has been doing exercises in a swimming pool to strengthen his hamstring, and said he'll continue that routine.
Now he'll turn his attentions to a 24-year-old pitcher making his second big league appearance. Ramos has never caught Jordan before, but that doesn't mean he's going into the assignment blind.
"I never catch him before, but we've got time to talk a little bit," Ramos said. "I will talk with (pitching coach Steve) McCatty about him. When we go out there (before the game), I'll see him. If I saw him in the bullpen a little bit, I will know him, what he's throwing."
How much playing time Ramos will get remains to be seen. Manager Davey Johnson must decide how duties will be split between Ramos and Kurt Suzuki, who handled the bulk of the games while Ramos was hurt. The original plan was to alternate the two catchers to keep them both fresh.
"My plan was that if he's OK I would catch him today and tomorrow," Johnson said. "I need to try to get Ramos to where ... he can catch and it's not a problem. That'll be something I'll just check with him and see how he's doing."
But there are financial ramifications in play, too. Suzuki's $9.25 million option for 2014 vests with 113 starts, and he's already started 61 of the Nats' 84 games.
For now, Ramos will focus on being back behind the plate and try to keep thoughts of a frustrating injury that's twice interrupted his season from creeping into his mind.
"It's a little bit hard because I'm a little bit scared to get hurt again," Ramos acknowledged. "Right now, I'm mentally 100 percent ... strong. I don't want to think about that. I want to go out there and play hard and try to do my best effort."