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Nats tab Wilson Ramos to bat cleanup on Opening Day vs. Mets

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2014

NEW YORK -- The first day of the Matt Williams era hasn't even begun yet and the Nationals new manager threw everyone a curveball: Catcher Wilson Ramos will bat fourth today when Washington opens the 2014 baseball season at Citi Field against the New York Mets.

Ramos had a handful of chances to bat fourth during spring training, but it's hard to read much into that. The coaching staff, after all, is juggling days off for veterans and switching players from day to day during camp.

"Wilson is one of our best middle-of-the-lineup guys," Williams said. "And in fact we moved [Ryan Zimmerman] up a little bit in the middle of the lineup, puts him in a good spot there. Hopefully today's he's got a lot of opportunities in that regard."

Zimmerman will bat second. Ramos, now healthy after an ACL tear in his right knee ruined his 2012 season and hamstring issues bothered him much of last year, had a monster spring - .385 batting average, .390 on-base percentage, .538 slugging percentage, .929 OPS.

Ramos has batted cleanup six times as a starter in his career and seven overall. But he sees a comfort level at that spot given he'd hit there plenty of times during Winter ball in his native Venezuela over the years. But at age 26, the Nats feel like his time has come.

"I guess surprised, but I'm ready," Ramos said after seeing his name on the lineup card in the No. 4 hole yesterday. "I'm ready. Feels great right now. Feels good to play. I believe in what I can do and I can do a good job in that spot."

But that doesn't mean it's a season-long lock. Williams said ideally he wants to keep today's first lineup intact all year as consistently as possible. But injuries, slumps, opposing pitchers, especially left-handers, finding at-bats for reserve infielder Danny Espinosa – all of that will factor into who hits where. But, for now, Ramos is thrilled at the chance to drive in runs with Denard Span, Zimmerman and Jayson Werth ahead of him.

"They can change the lineup and you have to be ready for what we will see every day when we get to the stadium," Ramos said. "For me I come to the field every time, every day, just trying to see my name tonight. I don't care where I bat. I just want to bat and do my best afterward."

Today's Opening Day lineups:

Nats

CF – Denard Span

3B – Ryan Zimmerman

RF – Jayson Werth

C – Wilson Ramos

LF – Bryce Harper

SS – Ian Desmond

1B- Adam LaRoche

2B – Anthony Rendon

P – Stephen Strasburg

Mets

2B – Eric Young

CF – Juan Lagares

3B – David Wright

RF – Curtis Granderson

LF – Andrew Brown

1B – Ike Davis

C – Travis D'Arnaud

SS – Ruben Tejada

P – Dillon Gee

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