VIERA, Fla. - Not only did Wilson Ramos make his long-awaited return to game action, he also played an integral part in the Nationals' walk-off win over the Cardinals.
Appearing in his first game since tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee last May 12, Ramos went 1-for-2, grounding out to third in his first at-bat and then doubling off the base of the right-center field wall leading off the bottom of the ninth.
Sandy Leon was called upon to pinch-run for Ramos, and after he moved to third on Chris Marrero's groundout to second, Zach Walters shot a single through a drawn-in infield to bring in the game-winning run.
Your final: Nationals 7, Cardinals 6.
"It was great," Johnson said of Ramos' debut. "I was worried when he chopped that ball to third and was running real hard to first. I said, 'Wil, don't run so hard.' But then he really looked good (in his second at-bat). The wind, it was a gale blowing in and he turned it around. And he looked good running the bases. Thank goodness he hit it so far he didn't have to slide."
Ross Detwiler only worked two innings today in his final tune-up before joining Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, but the threw 51 pitches and struck out four.
Detwiler allowed a run on four hits, but despite the wind, felt that he was able to throw some good offspeed pitches. Overall, the lefty seemed pleased with his outing, and Johnson was, as well.
"I thought Det threw the ball really good," Johnson said. "It was very tough out there. Windy, getting a feel for the ball. We were going to have him throw over 50 pitches, and he managed to do that in two innings. But he threw the ball good. Real pleased. He threw some good curveballs, nice pitches, so I think he's ready to pitch on the 9th in the Classic."
Johnson said he saw all that he needed to from Detwiler this spring to feel that he's ready for WBC play - and more importantly, that he's on track to be where he needs to be when the regular season begins.
"I wasn't really worried," Johnson said. "His arm is in great shape for all his pitches. He's ahead of some guys, as usual. I think he's limited to 65 pitches (in his WBC outing), and that won't be nothing for him. Two innings at 51 (pitches today), that builds up a really nice base."
Ryan Zimmerman also made his spring debut today, going 1-for-3 with an RBI single. His presence allowed Johnson to write up a lineup that could look a lot like how his opening day batting order will shake out.
"It was good," Johnson said. "All the guys got some at-bats. It was perfect, got three at-bats. ... It was good to have them in there. It'll be great to have an off-day (tomorrow) and then they'll be back in there on Tuesday. Same kind of scenario."
Walters joked after the game that he hasn't done much to impress Johnson yet this spring (the 23-year-old infielder is batting .235 in Grapefruit League games), but his walk-off hit sure didn't hurt things.
"I really like him," Johnson said. "He reminds me of kind of a young (Ian) Desmond. He's got a lot of talent. He's a country boy. Strong like Desmond. Great arm like Desmond. He hasn't quite figured out who he is, but he's definitely got a big upside."
Update: Ramos talked with reporters about his first game back, admitting he had some jitters when he first stepped into the batter's box in the seventh inning.
"I was a little bit nervous," Ramos said. "A long time ago I see a pitch on the mound. But I felt pretty good at the plate. First at-bat, I just tried to put the ball in play and see how I feel with my knee, but when I was running to first base, I felt good. Second at-bat, I was waiting for something over the plate. He threw me a fastball, 3-2 count. I was looking for a fastball."
Ramos said it will take him a little while before he doesn't think about the knee at all while playing, but added that he is anxious to get back behind the plate and catch a game, which he should be able to do Tuesday, when Johnson intends to give Ramos the first three innings of work at catcher.
His first at-bat in nearly eight months might've resulted in a harmless grounder to third, but it also drew a friendly response from Ramos' teammates when he got back to the dugout.
"Everybody just say, 'Welcome back,' " Ramos said.