Ramos nearly fully healthy, gunning for starting job

VIERA, Fla. - Nine months after suffering a gruesome injury to his right knee that required two major surgeries, Wilson Ramos is back at Nationals camp feeling almost completely healthy.

Ramos tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in a May 12 game against the Reds last season, ending his season and leading to months and months of grueling rehab.

You wouldn't know that Ramos sustained the injury by watching him these days, however. Now wearing jersey No. 40, the burly catcher walks around the Nationals' clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium without a limp, and while the Nats plan to ease him back into action, Ramos feels he can handle pretty much everything thrown at him these days.

"I feel better right now," Ramos said. "The doctors said go slow, do everything slow. That's because I don't want to get hurt again. I want to be 100 percent for the season, but I feel good right now. I'm working hard. I feel my knee is strong."

Manager Davey Johnson has said that Ramos will enter the regular season as the backup to Kurt Suzuki, a move intended to make sure Ramos doesn't rush back and try to do too much too quickly.

While Ramos feels good physically, he still has some hurdles to overcome before being ready for game action. Some of those hurdles are mental.

"I can do a lot of things right now," Ramos said. "I know I'll be scared for blocking (pitches in the dirt), but I'm running pretty good, hitting pretty good, squatting good. I'm doing a lot of agility exercises and it feels great. I'm only scared a little bit when I want to block, but I've got plenty of time to do that. Hopefully I will be blocking soon."

Suzuki finished the 2012 season on fire, finding success as a clutch offensive performer (he hit .313 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in his final 30 regular season games) and also developing a rapport with the Nationals' pitchers. Ramos is still just 25, however, and is still very highly regarded in the eyes of the Nationals' talent evaluators.

If he can get back to his pre-injury form and continue to progress offensively, it's reasonable to expect Ramos could regain the Nationals' starting catching job at some point. That's what the Venezuela native is shooting for.

"I'm coming to play hard this year," Ramos said. "I'm working hard on my knee, so I just want to come back again and play every day. That's the plan for right now. Come back strong. Play hard and take my starting position again."

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