VIERA, Fla. - Wilson Ramos’ first home run of spring was absolutely crushed. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that it might have rolled onto Stadium Parkway, which is well beyond the left field fence here at Space Coast Stadium.
The Nationals beat the Astros 8-5 this afternoon, and Ramos’ homer - which traveled over the left field wall, over the World of Beer deck and over the hill just in front of a row of trees - was the talk of the team during and after the game.
“I couldn’t even see it,” starter Tanner Roark said, laughing. “I saw a guy in the beer deck look behind him, and I was like, ‘Wow!’ “
“Pretty far,” deadpanned Bryce Harper, who had a first-inning homer of his own. “It was pretty far.”
Yes, Ramos’ three-run shot got some help from the wind, which was whipping through the stadium pretty good today. But the ball was smoked, and Ramos said that he thinks it might’ve been the furthest homer he’s ever hit, which is saying a lot for a guy with massive power.
“It was a good one,” Ramos said with a smile. “I hit that ball well.”
Ramos got plenty of fist-bumps and high fives once he had circled the bases and got back to the dugout, but he also got some good-natured ribbing from his teammates, as well.
“Everybody say something,” Ramos said, “like, ‘The wind was going out. Blah, blah, blah.’ They were laughing at me.”
Ramos is now 7-for-13 this spring with the homer, a double and six RBIs. He sure looks like he’s locked in, even though it’s early in spring.
“During winter ball, I play DH in Venezuela,” Ramos said. “Those at-bats help me to concentrate a little bit more at the plate and be patient and in the strike zone. I wanted to come here and take good at-bats and swing at strikes. Right now, I’m working on that, working on the strike zone. That help me to hit the ball well.”
Ramos caught both Roark and Rafael Soriano before being lifted for a pinch-runner in the sixth inning. Soriano’s outing was his first of the spring, and while he allowed two runs on three hits, Ramos liked what he saw from the Nats’ closer.
“He looked good,” Ramos said. “Throwing strikes. Right now, the wind is blowing a lot. Especially breaking pitch the ball is moving a lot. Throwing pretty good. Ball down.”
Excluding injured reliever Ryan Mattheus and newly-signed lefty Michael Gonzalez, Soriano was the last Nats pitcher to appear in a game this spring. He typically eases into spring training, and while he’s been taking part in workouts with the Nats on a daily basis, his throwing program has him start getting game action deeper into the Grapefruit League schedule than most.
“Long time for me,” Soriano said. “Feel good. I feel good.”
The Nats plan to get Soriano just eight innings or so this spring, which is all the closer feels he needs to get ready for the regular season. Most late-inning relievers take on less of a workload than other pitchers in spring, but Soriano’s innings count is even on the short-end of things as closers go.
“I’ve been doing it a couple years,” Soriano said. “Last year I only throw eight. Feel fine for me, so (I’m) ready to do the same this year. Right now, the good thing for me, I feel fine the first time. (It’s been) a long time when I pitch. ...
“I think I (want to) work a little bit on my slider. I have a couple bullpens and I feel my slider is there. That’s all that matter to me. I think I throw a couple sliders and not bad for the first time.”
As for Roark, the right-hander joked that he felt like Roy Halladay today with how much the wind was helping his sinker move.
“It was alright,” Roark said of his 2 2/3 innings of work, in which he allowed a run on four hits with three strikeouts. “I coulda finished off hitters a little better than what I did. Getting ahead a little bit more. Other than that, felt pretty good.”
Roark ended up throwing 49 pitches today, 28 for strikes. He pushed the limit of how far Matt Williams wants to have his starters go in their second appearance of spring, and while he gave up a long homer to the last batter he faced - Marc Krauss - Roark said fatigue wasn’t an issue in the third inning.
“I felt good,” he said. “I thought I’d get one more hitter. I knew I’d thrown a lot of pitches because I wasn’t finishing hitters off in 0-2 counts and going deeper into counts than I would like. ... (I was) just maybe nibbling a little too much. Trying to make a perfect pitch and not going after then, pounding the zone.”