The Washington Times - March 21, 2013, 11:59PM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Wilson Ramos was behind the plate when the first pitch of Thursday night’s loss to the Atlanta Braves was thrown. And when the game was over, for the first time since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee, Ramos was still in the lineup.

The Washington Nationals’ catcher caught his first full game since last May. And in the aftermath, as he iced down the knee that cost him the majority of his 2012 season, it was clear how much the moment meant to him.

SEE RELATED:


“I feel excited right now for this step in my career,” Ramos said. “I’m very excited right now for the first time I caught eight innings after I had surgery.

“If I say this, I don’t know if anybody can believe it, but I feel better than before I got hurt.”

Ramos deserves a lot of credit for the way he chose to use his rehab to remake his body in many ways.

Always a big, burly catcher, Ramos has made himself leaner — if not lighter — and learned how important a workout regimen is for him. 

His joy this spring has come not only from feeling no pain in his right knee as he’s taken and passed every test laid before him, but also from the other ways he feels like a better player. 

Thursday night, he threw Andrelton Simmons out trying to steal third base. He made a quick, strong throw to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to allow him to apply the sweeping tag. And he could see feel a difference in himself.

“I feel more strong, I feel more alive behind the plate,” Ramos said. “That’s a quick reaction for me. It feels great. My arm feels good. My footwork is quicker than before, because I lost weight.

“I’m very excited about all the job I did (in the rehab process).”

The next step will be for Ramos to play full games on back-to-back days, but it’s unclear if he’ll be allowed to do that while the team is still in spring training and with Kurt Suzuki equally needing playing time. He is ready for the season, though, and he knows that simply by how good he feels on the days after he catches.

“I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel tired,” he said. “I don’t feel sore in my knee, in my leg. I just feel more excited because I wake up and I don’t feel nothing in my body. I just say ‘Let’s go. I’m ready to play.’”