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Ramos catching on with Rodriguez as his mentor

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Washington Nationals have a catcher who's built his reputation as a potential Hall of Famer in part because he's one of the best there is at gunning out runners.

Over the course of his 21-year career, Ivan Rodriguez has thrown out an average of 46 percent of attempted base stealers — a track record that includes nine times as the league leader in that category. In 2001 with Texas, he caught 60 percent of runners.

And while Rodriguez's arm continues to be a marvel as he approaches age 40, the Nationals have another catcher who's bringing back memories of Rodriguez in his prime — Wilson Ramos.

"I think he's a stud," shortstop Ian Desmond said Tuesday before the Nationals' game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

"He's got a great arm, and he's got a great technique back there," said Desmond, who's on the receiving end of a lot of those throws. "I asked him the other day who his favorite players were growing up and who he wanted to be like, and he said Pudge, which is obvious. They have a lot of the same characteristics, and they kind of both have the same fire. As far as throwing guys out, he's going to end up being probably one of the best if he keeps doing what he's doing."

Ramos has caught eight of 18 would-be base stealers this season, a 44 percent rate that ranks second in the majors among regular catchers behind only the 45 percent posted by Baltimore's Matt Wieters. Rodriguez and Ramos have combined to tie with Oakland for the best mark in the majors as a team (42 percent).

Even Monday, when Ramos attempted to throw out Chase Utley in the fifth inning and was unsuccessful, it wasn't because of his throw. It was on target and in time, but infielder Alex Cora wasn't able to corral it.

"Blocking balls, calling a game, throwing to second, he's just a really good player," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. "He's a good one. He's intense. I like that he really gets irritated when we give up some runs, as he's taking some responsibility for that. I don't put it on him, but he puts it on himself that 'We gave up some runs and I'm catching. I'm calling for these pitches and they got some hits.' "

"I just try every day to do my best job," Ramos said.

While Ramos has shown defensively that he can be the catcher that the Nationals envisioned when they acquired him from Minnesota for reliever Matt Capps in 2010, his offense has had peaks and valleys.

Even catching still is a learning experience. Twice in the past week, Ramos was unable to hold on to a throw to the plate with a runner coming in from third — a technique he's been working on and has, again, one of the best in the game in Rodriguez to learn from.

"He's got good hands," Riggleman said. "He's going to catch the ball with just about anybody else except maybe Pudge. Pudge is like a shortstop doing it, and we can't hold everybody to that standard.

"A lot of people forget that he's 23 years old," Desmond said. "He's a young guy, and this is first year in the big leagues. He's got great presence back there."

Notes: Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has progressed in his rehab from abdominal surgery and will play in an extended spring training game Wednesday. Zimmerman, who's been rehabbing in Florida from surgery to repair a torn rectus muscle, is projected to return in mid-June.

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