VIERA, Fla. — Wilson Ramos could feel his nerves as he stood in the on-deck circle on a blustery Sunday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.
He wanted to put a ball in play, but he wondered what would happen when he tried to run down the first base line. He hadn’t been in this situation, between those white lines, as he put it last week, since May 12, 2012. And the last time he did it, he didn’t have a surgically-repaired right knee to worry about.
He looked at strike one from Cardinals pitcher Kevin Siegrist. Then he connected with the second pitch, sending a chopper down to third base.
In the dugout, manager Davey Johnson watched his catcher begin to run hard down the first base line.
“I said ‘Oh, Wily, don’t run so hard,’” Johnson said later.
But Ramos was fine. He was more than fine. He was thrilled.
In his second at-bat, leading off the ninth inning, Ramos crushed a ball into the wind. It hit the base of the wall in right center field for a double and gave the Nationals the baserunner they needed to earn the walk-off victory over the Cardinals later in the inning.
Sandy Leon pinch ran for Ramos. It was the first time he’d ever been asked to be a pinch runner, he said.
In the dugout, when Ramos returned, his teammates had one message for him: Welcome back.
“Right now, I’m trying to forget everything with my knee,” Ramos said, though he admitted it will take a little more time for him to play without thinking about it at all. “Just concentrate and play hard.
“That’s a big step for me today. Now, I’m very excited. I want to be behind the plate soon.”
He will get his wish in that regard. Ramos will start Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros, catching three innings and getting another at-bat.