With big smile and blue hair, Ramírez happy for opportunity with Nats

When the Nationals signed Harold Ramírez to a minor league deal two weeks ago, the idea was that he could provide another right-handed bat to face left-handed pitching. He joined the Nats this week leading all major leaguers with a .339 batting average against left-handed pitchers since 2020, which could definitely help a team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in hitting southpaws.

Ramírez wasn’t having a terrible year by league standards, hitting .268 in 48 games with the Rays before they designated him for assignment and released him. There just wasn’t a lot of power (.305 slugging percentage and .589 OPS) or consistency after he hit .300 in each of the previous two seasons.

The question wasn’t really: Could Ramírez recapture his hitting ability? It was more: Where is his mindset after being designated for assignment in the middle of the season?

There was a conversation to be had between the 29-year-old and the Nats brass as he joined the team in San Diego on Monday. And that conversation was all about confidence.

“We just talked about confidence,” Ramírez said. “What can I do when I hit? We feel excited because I'm here. … I always have confidence because that's the most important thing for me.”

The Nationals would love for Ramírez to get back to being a .300 hitter. But that’s not the expectation for him. Still, it’s something for him to strive for, knowing he did it in the past.

“Like I did before, I gotta take advantage of every at-bat I have,” he said. “I just gotta have a good approach. I just have to (warm up) my routine and just compete.”

Ramírez began that work when he reported to Triple-A Rochester after signing his minor league deal. Over seven games with the Red Wings, he went 9-for-24 (.375) with a double, four RBIs, six walks and a run scored while posting multi-hit performances in four outings.

“I really tried to get my timing back because I didn't play for, like, two weeks and a half,” he said. “So I was just working on my timing. I just feel good to go.”

A six-year veteran who has also spent time in Miami and Cleveland, Ramírez was already familiar with a few of his new teammates when he arrived, including Joey Meneses, Eddie Rosario, Ildemaro Vargas and Keibert Ruiz. But he was also familiar with the Nats’ young roster as a whole and what they’re building toward.

“In my opinion, we have a very good team,” Ramírez said. “Young guys. We play very good baseball. We are in a good spot for the wild card now. So I just want to be a part of it.”

“He's a super good teammate. He really is,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He loves to play the game. He's a competitor and we love that about him. So we did our due diligence before he got let go and the other teams had nothing but great things to say about him. He's a really good teammate. I know that when he was down there, I talked to some of the coaches down there and they said, 'This guy's unbelievable. He's helping all of our young players, teaching them little things about hitting.' And I said we can use that here as well. So we're looking forward to getting him out there.”

Ramírez made his first two appearances as a National as a pinch-hitter on Monday and Tuesday, finally making his first start as the designated hitter in Wednesday’s finale. He knocked an RBI double on Tuesday and another RBI single on Wednesday.

You’ll notice he has blue hair and wears cleats covered in blue puzzle patterns, a tribute to the autistic community. Both of his sons have autism and he has been an advocate for awareness since they were born.

“I really do it because my two sons have autism,” he said of his hair and cleats. “I just want everybody to know about autistic people. So that's the reason why I do it: I love my sons.”

He’s only been around the team for a few days, but his smile is already infectious. Now with a new opportunity in the big leagues, Ramírez is going to enjoy it as much as possible. And of course, as the baseball gods would have it, his second series with the Nats will be back in Tampa Bay.

“I'm really always like that,” he said. “I just try to enjoy my life. I'm always smiling. I'm always playing around like a little kid. So that's my personality.”

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