CINCINNATI — The Washington Nationals' run of injuries to key position players took another unfortunate turn Saturday night. Catcher Wilson Ramos was helped off the field in the seventh inning by two trainers after he turned to field a passed ball and his right knee appeared to buckle beneath him.
Ramos lay on the ground behind home plate for several minutes, wincing in significant pain. The trainers finally got him to sit up and, ultimately, got him to his feet before they helped him off the field. Ramos was putting barely any pressure on his right leg as he left the field.
The Nationals' catcher was sent for an MRI after the game and the team did not expect to have any concrete results until the morning. But the initial feeling was not a good one.
"I don't know how bad it is," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson after the Nationals' 2-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. "But I have a bad feeling he tore something in there and his down time will be a while. We'll just keep our fingers crossed, but right now it's not good at all."
According to a club source, the Nationals will most likely call up catcher Sandy Leon from Double-A for Sunday's game. The Harrisburg Senators are playing in nearby Akron, Ohio, this weekend and the team's only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Jhonatan Solano at Triple-A Syracuse, but he is on the disabled list. Leon is not on the 40-man roster but the Nationals currently only have 39 players on it.
Jesus Flores replaced Ramos in the game Saturday night and will become the starting catcher in his absence. But the loss of Ramos is not one the Nationals will take lightly. The 24-year-old is hitting .265 on the season and hit his third home run, second in the last five games, in the fifth inning Saturday night. Several players feared it was a major injury.
"Wilson's done such a good job," said second baseman Danny Espinosa. "Obviously, everyone knows how good he is defensively, and offensively he's hitting the crap out of the ball. To lose Wilson, that'd be a big blow. That'd be horrible."
"We're brothers in here," said shortstop Ian Desmond. "We just lost another brother. We don't know how long, obviously, but we'll say our prayers for him. Hopefully he gets healthy and we're going to move on."
Flores, 27, was the team's No. 1 catcher in 2009 when a foul tip deflected off his shoulder. In what ultimately became a fractured shoulder and a torn labrum, Flores lost almost two full years of his career rehabbing. He played his first full season since the injury in 2011.
"It's sad," Flores said of Ramos's injury. "I've been there, and I know it doesn't feel very good. I hope it is nothing serious and he'll be fine. ... I've been [an everyday starter] before. I feel ready for it and I'm going to keep helping the team win. I feel very confident I can do my job."
The Nationals on Sunday are expected to place Ramos on the 15-day disabled list, making him the ninth player the team has had to put on the DL this season.
Michael Morse is out until at least June with a torn right lat, Jayson Werth will be out a few months with a broken wrist. Mark DeRosa (oblique), Brad Lidge (sports hernia), Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring) and Drew Storen (bone chips) are all also still on the DL and Ryan Zimmerman and Rick Ankiel both spent time there already this season. Adam LaRoche also missed four games with a sore oblique.
"We've got pretty good depth here and we've got a lot of talent, but I think we've had enough," Johnson said. "Certainly Flores is capable of being a No. 1 [catcher] and he's ready for that challenge. But losing one of the top catchers in the league, that hurts."
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