VIERA, Fla. — With sweat dripping from his face as he took a quick break mid-workout, Wilson Ramos’ first answer to a question about how he’s feeling was a joking one.
“Tired,” he says with a laugh.
The real answer, with regard to the health of his right knee, is just as upbeat as Ramos’ attitude on Monday as the Nationals went through an informal workout. Ramos, who arrived in Viera before the end of January to continue his rehab, is on schedule in his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus suffered last May.
“I can do a lot of things right now,” he said, rattling off the facts. He is running, squatting and hitting with no issues already and doing a multitude of agility exercises that have helped him strengthen his knee and improve his flexibility.
He then adds the one hurdle he’s yet to clear: “I know I’ll be scared for blocking,” he said. “I’m only scared a little bit when I want to block, but I’ve got plenty of time to do that. Hopefully I will be blocking soon.”
It was, of course, the act of blocking a ball in the dirt last May in Cincinnati that ended Ramos’ 2012 season. It was the cleat that caught on the grass and snapped his ACL that left him writhing in pain behind the plate. The issue, however, is mental and Ramos acknowledged as much.
“I’m scared to feel something when I put my knee in the ground but that’s mental,” he said. “I want to be strong in my mind, but I’ve got time to recover.”
The Nationals plan to begin the season with Ramos serving as the backup to catcher Kurt Suzuki. They want to ease Ramos back into the workload, slowly increasing his duties as his health allows, and ultimately reinstalling him as their starting catcher.
“The doctors said go slow, do everything slow, because I don’t want to get hurt again,” he said. “I want to be 100 percent for the season. But I feel good right now. I’m working hard. I feel my knee is strong.”
While Ramos hasn’t focused on losing weight during his rehab, the burly catcher said he has focused on getting leaner and strengthening his core — and he’s had success. He wears a thin black brace on his right knee, but otherwise shows no ill-effects to the naked eye from the injury that ended his season. He spent the majority of the winter in D.C. rehabbing, but enjoyed about six weeks back home in Venezuela before arriving in Florida.
With so much tumult in his life in the past 18 months, Ramos is looking forward to focusing on playing games again.
“I’m coming to play hard this year,” he said. “I’m working hard on my knee and I just want to come back again and play everyday. That’s the plan for right now. Come back strong, play hard and take my starting position again.”