Opportunity may knock soon for Nats' Ramos

Opportunity may knock soon for Nats' Ramos

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals are so impressed with catcher Wilson Ramos that they are thinking about making him the Opening Day starter behind the plate, according to two baseball sources.

Some members of the team's think tank believe Ramos is more equipped for the job than Ivan Rodriguez. It was announced in February that Rodriguez would be the No 1. catcher to start the regular season. But if Ramos becomes the starter, Rodriguez could be a bench player or be dealt to another team. If Rodriguez is traded, Jesus Flores most likely will be the backup.

Ramos is 8-for-30 (.267) with a homer and two RBIs. Rodriguez is currently nursing a calf injury, but he is expected to travel with to team to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to play the Mets on Saturday. Rodriguez has played in eight games and is 5-for-21 (.238) with two RBIs.

General manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman were not available to comment about Ramos. However, one of the sources said he is impressed by what he has seen from Ramos. The person pointed out that Ramos, 23, wants to win and takes responsibility whenever opponents score runs.

"Ramos is going to be one of the better catchers in baseball as we go through the next 10 years," the source said. "Physically, he is a bull. [He has a] good arm, he gets rid of the ball, he has power. He has a wonderful disposition. When the opponents score runs, he gets mad.

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"He is better than what I expected, because I didn't know the ball jumps off his bat like that. I heard he could catch and throw. I heard he could hit. He has hit the hardest line drives that a person can hit. With the more playing time he gets, I think he is going to be that much better."

Nationals reliever Sean Burnett said Ramos is a good target behind the plate.

"He is a very talented kid. He is very gifted. He plays the game very naturally," Burnett said. "It looks like a lot of things come easy. He has a lot of power and is a very good catcher."

The soft-spoken Ramos acknowledged that Riggleman has given him a lot of opportunities, but he doesn't know if he will play every day this season. He realizes that he is currently playing behind Rodriguez.

"I'm very excited to be with this team," Ramos said. "I play a lot. ... I'm working on my defense and I'm working on calling a game. I'm learning more about the pitchers. I want to know more about the pitchers, because if I get a chance to stay with the team, I have to know everything -- how they would like to throw and everything."

Ramos sometimes wondered if he would get the chance to play in the big leagues. He signed with the Twins as a free agent in 2004, but opportunities in Minnesota were limited as the team had a top-notch catcher in Joe Mauer.

But when Ramos received the news on July 29 of last year that he and pitcher Joe Testa were traded to the Nationals for reliever Matt Capps, Ramos was excited. Ramos had a feeling that he would get a chance to play. Once the deal was done, Ramos was proclaimed Washington's a catcher of the future. Ramos had a brief stint in the big leagues with Washington, going 14-for-54 (.269) with a homer and four RBIs.

"This is a new opportunity for me and my future," Ramos said. "I just want to play hard and see what happens. I want to play every day. I know we have Ivan Rodriguez. I want to stay in Washington for a long time."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.