Wilson Ramos caught three innings in an extended spring training game today in Viera, Fla., hitting two homers and a double. But the strong showing may not sway the Nationals from taking the more patient and conservative course in his rehabilitation from surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left hand.
"We'll see how he does tomorrow," manager Matt Williams said before the Nationals opened a three-game weekend series at Citizens Bank Park against the Phillies. "He's scheduled to catch again tomorrow - more innings - but we don't want to rush him too fast. But he's feeling good at the plate. We want to make sure his legs are in shape and he can catch and go nine innings."
Ramos is on the 15-day disabled list and is champing at the bit to return to the Nationals. He had hoped that might occur on Monday, when the Dodgers invade Nationals Park for the first of three games, but Williams isn't sure that's a possibility.
"I don't know how realistic that is," Williams said. "You've been out for a month roughly and not catching, kind of and you just get back in the flow of it. Look at it as spring training, it takes them a long time to get going and maintain that. I worry about his legs. I worry about, given his history, that he's fully in shape when he comes back."
Ramos has had problems with his hamstrings in the past, and Williams seems more comfortable with gradually ramping up his activity against increasingly better competition. He'll catch six innings tomorrow and nine innings the following day, the manager said.
That suggests the Nationals will send Ramos out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment before he's activated from the DL. The manager suggested a series in Oakland from May 9-11 as a possibility, even hinting that Ramos could DH because the Nats would be playing in an American League park.
But Williams said it was a promising sign to see Ramos swinging the bat well. Players coming off hamate bone removal sometimes take a while to regain their power stroke, an irony considering the hook-shaped bone that's been surgically removed actually serves no purpose at all.
"It's a good sign that he's feeling good at the plate and that he doesn't have apprehension ... swinging," Williams said.
Outfielder Scott Hairston, on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain, will continue his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Syracuse through the weekend. Hairston could be activated for Monday's home game.
"He's almost there," Williams said. "We'll see how that goes, too. With that type of injury, you don't know. One swing can do it again. You don't know."
Right-hander Doug Fister is making a minor league rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg in Reading, Pa., tonight. He's slated to go five innings or 80 pitches, and Williams indicated that if he's efficient with his pitches, Fister could go six innings.
There's no real update on third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is on the 15-day DL with a broken right thumb, Williams offered.
"Every week, couple of weeks, he gets the X-ray and they want to see some callousing there before he gets the OK to go ahead and start with your program," Williams said. "He's doing everything else. He's doing all of his running and all of that, working out and making sure he's in shape. But as far as baseball activity, he can't do anything until he has the callousing."