Ramos to approach latest return with caution

The third time's the charm.

At least, that's what Wilson Ramos is hoping.

After missing the team's last 14 games with a strained right hamstring - his second significant absence this season due to injury - the Nationals catcher was activated earlier today, and is ready to put a stop-and-start beginning to the 2014 season behind him.

"Yeah, it feels good," Ramos said of his health. "Those games in the minor leagues helped me a lot to be here and healthy and those games helped me to see how I feel and it feels good. I ran a lot down (in the minors) and ... that helped me pick up my confidence and allowed me to be here."

It's been a frustrating season for Ramos and justifiably so. He suffered a broken bone in his left hand on opening day, landing him on the disabled list before having a chance to get into any sort of rhythm.

Then, after returning to action at the start of May, Ramos appeared in just 24 games before straining his hamstring, putting him back on the DL since June 10. The hamstring put a damper on the catcher's nice start to the campaign, as Ramos hit .261 with seven doubles and 11 RBIs.

Still, after a four-game rehab assignment in the minors, Ramos says he's healthy and ready to go, as the catcher will hit seventh in the Nationals' series opener against the Cubs. While getting into a comfort zone will be important, the real battle will be staying healthy, particularly by not overdoing it out of the gate.

"That's how I need to play," Ramos said. "I need to play smart, not necessarily run hard if I don't have to do it, but sometimes it's necessary to run hard and I'll have to do it. I'll have to be ready for that."

After suffering the strained hamstring earlier in June, Ramos mentioned the idea of tweaking his workout routine, an idea he has taken to heart. He's focusing more on his hamstring and an effort to be more loose with his legs. Moving forward, it's all about preventing yet another trip to the disabled list.

Nationals manager Matt Williams attested to that and talked about the importance of keeping Ramos healthy in the early going.

"We certainly don't want to push it," Williams said. "If (Ramos) has any thought about whether he can make it or not, let's just make sure we're conservative in that regard. But, you get in the heat of the moment and you don't think about those things, you think about getting to the next base. So we'll try to make sure we bubble wrap him as much as possible, especially early on."

Despite the caution, both Williams and Ramos stressed the fact that the catcher is "full go" and excited to return to the Nationals lineup. His addition to the lineup and behind the plate should give the National League East leaders an even deeper batting order, which could provide a spark moving forward.

"It helps a lot," Williams said. "As long as you can lengthen your lineup, it doesn't give the opposing pitcher a break. He can't relax, which is good. That kind of pressure you want to put on offensively, regardless of who you're playing."

Ramos is 0-for-3 lifetime against Cubs starter Travis Wood.

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