The Washington Times - February 15, 2013, 03:43PM

VIERA, Fla. — Jordan Zimmermann extended his hand and gave his catcher a handshake for a job well done. At the end of the second bullpen session Wilson Ramos has caught since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament last May, Ramos was even more encouraged than he had been after his first session.

Ramos felt his right knee tire a bit on Thursday toward the end of the eight-minute bullpen session. But on Friday, that feeling did not come so quickly. 

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“That was the good news,” said manager Davey Johnson. “He hit and went through all the drills for a catcher so that was good. That was the best news of the day.”

The Nationals plan to bring Ramos along slowly, on the doctors’ orders. He is only catching one of three bullpen rounds at this point and Johnson said when he does get him into a spring training game, it’ll likely only be for three innings or so from the outset. 

The medical staff told Johnson Ramos’ would likely need about six weeks from the start of spring training before he was fully ready, but given the way he’s looked thus far and the way he says he feels, Johnson said he wouldn’t be surprised if that timetable was sped up.

“If there’s nothing wrong except recovery, building up strength, I basically let the player dictate to me by what I see he can do and can’t do,” Johnson said. “And from what I’m seeing right now, I would say he’s on schedule, for me anyway, (to be ready in) probably 50 to 75 percent less time than what his orthopedic surgeon said.”

Ramos likely will not play in a spring game until two weeks of games have passed, but Johnson said he also sees that as somewhat of a conservative estimate.

“I guarantee if you tell that to Willy, he’ll say I’m shooting for March 1 or something.” 

How quickly he comes along and passes certain tests here in the spring will determine whether or not he’ll be ready to serve as the team’s backup catcher when the season begins. Ramos says he wants to get the start on Opening Day. While that is highly unlikely, Johnson doesn’t mind him thinking it.

“That’s what I want him to think,” he said. “But the medical people, they’re going to be conservative… It’ll be up to Ramos. How are you doing? Do you think you can handle it? And if the first (spring) game comes up, I probably won’t catch him more than three innings or whatever and just build on that.”