The Washington Times - March 19, 2011, 12:03PM

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — When the Nationals take the field for the first time on March 31 at Nationals Park, the man behind the plate will be Ivan Rodriguez.

Despite the left calf soreness that has kept Rodriguez out of the lineup since Monday (though he is expected to play today) and despite the fact that the Nationals are very high on 23-year-old Wilson Ramos, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman reiterated today that Rodriguez would be catching for Washington on Opening Day.

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After that first game, it’s likely that Ramos and Rodriguez will share the duties more equally as the Nationals try to phase Ramos into the starting catcher’s role while the 39-year-old Rodriguez moves to more of a backup position. Rodriguez is 183 hits away from career hit No. 3,000.

Jesus Flores is also in the mix but a starting role for him is not a real possibility at this point as he continues to come back from major shoulder surgery in 2009.

“Pudge will catch (Opening Day) and we’ll just go from there,” Riggleman said. “I think they’re both going to catch a lot.

“Ramos has played and caught his way on to the club to this point. I can’t say that he’s the second catcher. He’s done nothing to say that he isn’t.”

Ramos is batting .267 this spring and played a particularly strong game on Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a home run against the Astros.