The Washington Times - August 6, 2013, 06:57PM

Five days after Wilson Ramos was activated from the disabled list for the second time this season, the Washington Nationals catcher sat in a desk chair in a hallway between the visitors’ clubhouse and the training room at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Around his legs were ankle weights. 

Ramos sat in the chair, put one heel down and pressed his foot to the ground, rolling himself forward. He repeated the act with the other foot, slowly making his way up and down the hallway.

SEE RELATED:


He looked up at one point and smiled. “For my hamstrings,” he said. 

“I want to keep doing (the extra exercises),” Ramos said Monday. “I don’t want to get hurt again. I’m scared to get hurt again. I want to keep working and doing everything I can to stay healthy.”

Ramos has been one of the Nationals’ most productive hitters this season. He entered Tuesday night’s game against the Braves with a .293 average, seven homers and a .512 slugging percentage. Monday night, when Jayson Werth was scratched during batting practice, manager Davey Johnson had no qualms about hitting Ramos in the cleanup spot. Tuesday, hitting .320 since coming off the disabled list, he hit sixth.

The problem, of course, is that he can only be productive if he can stay on the field. And since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee in mid-May of 2012, that has been a challenge for Ramos. 

The rehab from his knee injury went seamlessly, and Ramos worked tirelessly to improve his physical condition throughout the process. He flew through the various benchmarks, and while the plan was to ease him in during spring training, Ramos was ready for a full workload fairly quickly into the team’s stay in Viera, Fla. 

But he has twice strained his left hamstring this season, costing him 58 games in two separate trips to the disabled list. 

The first occurred on April 14, as he was running down the first base line, and Ramos missed just the minimum 15 days on the disabled list. But on May 16, he hit a double at Dodger Stadium and felt his hamstring tighten. When he singled in his next at-bat, he knew he’d re-strained it. 

So now, having started 21 of the Nationals’ 29 games since he came off the disabled list on July 4, Ramos is working to ensure that his legs can stay strong throughout the remainder of the season.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Ramos said. “I learned a lot as soon as I had surgery because my mind’s changed a little bit. Now I know how hard you have to work. Baseball is very hard. Now I know one surgery can take the game away. 

“I want to work a lot to try to stay healthy. I have to keep doing that — and I want to do it.”

Ramos doesn’t do the exercise in the rolling chair anymore, he said, even though it helped him greatly, because he’s been doing strengthening exercises in the Nationals’ training pool that he likes better. He does those regularly. He’s also on a strict stretching regimen and he works out his entire body everyday. 

Since he tore up his knee in 2012, Ramos has lost over 20 pounds — part of the plan to put less strain on his legs as he goes through the grueling season.

“He’s always doing stuff to make sure he doesn’t have a problem,” Johnson said. “He wants to play. He was mad at me he didn’t play a day game after a night game. He wants to play and he deserves to play.

“Since I’ve been here with him, he’s been a horse behind the dish and he’s swung the bat well. I think him keeping his weight right where it’s at is going to keep him healthier. He’s strong. Everybody (fist bumps me on their way back to the dugout), but he shakes my hand; I’ve got to make sure I don’t get it in a bad spot (if he fist bumped me).”

Ramos has been trimmed down since he arrived in spring training, a large portion of his weight coming off as he worked to get leaner during the rehab for his knee. But he has been able to maintain that weight throughout the season, and he’s seeing the benefits in how he feels now that he’s back to catching regularly.

“Right now I feels great with my body,” he said. “I feel more agile behind the plate, more strong… I feel good and I want to be consistent with that weight and keep doing all the exercises I’m doing right now.”