In the back corner of the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse Sunday morning, Wilson Ramos tapped Jhonatan Solano on the shoulder. The two catchers shared a hug and a few words, knowing that the promotion to the major leagues for Solano came at the expense of another injury to Ramos.
“I’m excited,” Solano said. “At the same time, I am sad for Ramos.”
The Nationals placed Ramos on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning, recalling Solano from Triple-A Syracuse, though they were encouraged that an MRI done Saturday afternoon revealed Ramos’ left hamstring strain was fairly mild and may only cost him the minimum 15 days.
“We don’t think it’s too serious but it’s not something we want to push that could linger and become a long-term issue for him,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. “We’re thinking that once he comes off the DL he should be ready to play for us.”
In the meantime, it appears the Kurt Suzuki will shift back into more of an everyday role. To this point in the season, manager Davey Johnson had been alternating his catchers each day. With Ramos hurt, though, Suzuki likely will become more of a traditional No. 1 catcher and Solano will serve as his backup.
The Nationals’ catchers had been one of their unquestioned strengths, particularly offensively, early this season with Suzuki and Ramos combining to hit .292 with seven walks and three home runs in 12 games.
“It’s unfortunate,” Suzuki said. “We had a pretty good thing going and for something like that to happen, it sucks.”
Ramos, who strained the hamstring while running to first to try to beat out a ground ball on Saturday afternoon, was in and out of the training room for treatment on Sunday morning and was unavailable for comment.
But it was clear that amongst his teammates there was an understanding of how heartbreaking this particular injury was.
Ramos tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee on May 12, 2012. In the 11 months since that day, the catcher worked tirelessly to get himself back into playing shape and back on the field. It was a long, grueling rehab process in which he remade his body and made himself more athletic and agile behind the plate.
Offensively, he’d opened the season on a tear, hitting .300 with two home runs and three walks and he’d struck out just once.
“It was disappointing,” Rizzo said of seeing Ramos come up a bit hobbled after the groundout. “It’s kind of like piling on, almost. But I was happy that it was a mild hamstring instead of any kind of a knee issue.
“(But) it’s a great situation to be in that we have a No. 1 catcher to step in and play full time when one of them goes down. It’s a good feeling to have and that was the reason we acquired (Suzuki last August).”
Suzuki said he hadn’t been told explicitly that he would now be shouldering a more regular load, but he said he had no problem with that.
“I think since I came over last year, Davey knows if he says I’m in, I’m in,” Suzuki said. “He knows everyday he doesn’t need to ask if I’m good. I’ll be good to go.”
As for Solano, he got the news that he’d be returning to the major leagues in the eighth inning of Syracuse’s game on Saturday when manager Tony Beasley pulled him and informed him he was heading to Washington. Solano immediately asked what happened and was saddened to learn it was an injury to Ramos.
“I’m here,” Solano said. “And I’m going to take my opportunity to play.”
Solano, who hit .314 in 35 at-bats in the major leagues in 2012 — including two homers, took an early morning flight from Syracuse to D.C. for Sunday’s game. His wife and one-year-old daughter were following behind him in their car. Solano’s call up comes at a good time for him as the Nationals will travel to Miami Sunday night, where his brother Donovan plays for the Marlins.
As he made himself comfortable in the clubhouse, greeted as “The Onion” and sharing hugs with his teammates, Solano was happy to be in D.C., and not just because it was the big leagues.
“The weather is crazy (in Syracuse),” said Solano, a Colombian native. “First two days it snowed… yesterday we played in 38 degreees, a 1 p.m. game. I don’t feel nothing yesterday. Not my shoes, not my hands.”