- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2014

NEW YORK — Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos will see a hand specialist in Washington on Tuesday after a foul ball smashed off his left hand in the sixth inning of Monday’s 9-7 Opening Day victory over the New York Mets.

X-rays on site at Citi Field were inconclusive, according to manager Matt Williams, and there was no immediate diagnosis of a broken bone.

Ramos has had his share of heartache in recent seasons. An ACL tear in his right knee ruined his 2012 season in mid-May and hamstring issues limited him to 78 games last season.

But Ramos entered this season off a strong spring training, where he had a .385 batting average, .390 on-base percentage, .538 slugging percentage and .929 OPS.

It was that performance that had Williams throwing a curveball even before managing his first major-league game and batting Ramos fourth against the Mets. That had occurred just seven times in Ramos’ career, though he did so several times this spring, a hint into Williams’ thinking.

“Wilson is one of our best middle-of-the-lineup guys,” Williams said before the game. “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.”

Now, that opportunity for Ramos is in question again. Williams said the Nats were in talks about which minor league catcher they might summon, likely Sandy Leon from Double-A Harrisburg or Jhonatan Solano from Triple-A Syracuse, but nothing would be determined until Ramos’ status is known for sure. Williams said that Ramos’ hand did not look swollen.

“But you have a lot of little bones in there so we have to make sure,” Williams said.

Ramos finished his first day in the cleanup spot 0 for 3, getting called out on strikes in the seventh inning before departing in the bottom of that frame. Reserve catcher Jose Lobaton, acquired in a spring training trade with Tampa Bay, came in for his Washington debut. He would later single during a four-run 10th inning.

“I guess surprised, but I’m ready,” Ramos said before the game after seeing his name on the lineup card in the No. 4 hole. “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.”

Barrett opens big-league career with ‘W’

Aaron Barrett was a long shot to even make the Nats’ Opening Day roster.

But on Monday the right-handed relief pitcher was not only in uniform, he made his major-league debut and earned his first major-league win.

Barrett held the Mets at bay in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the 10th, his teammates rewarded him with a four-run outburst. His parents, Dave and Jackie, wife, Kendyl, brother, Ryan, sister-in-law, Ashley, mother-in-law, Kathi, and his toddler niece were all in attendance.

“Pretty surreal, just like making the team out of camp,” Barrett said. “Talking to the veteran guys on the team they told me to just enjoy every single moment that I can. Today was one of those moments that I’ve dreamed about over and over.”

A 26-year-old right-handed pitcher, Barrett once almost washed out of pro ball when he couldn’t do the one thing that had always come naturally to him — throw the baseball. Steve Blass disease — better known as the dreaded “yips” — had struck during his first pro season at low-A Vermont.

In 21 innings, Barrett, a ninth-round draft pick by Washington in 2010, threw nine wild pitches and walked 22 batters. It was a disaster and one that few pitchers overcome. The condition is named for Blass, once a standout pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970s before he could no longer throw strikes.

Other prominent players afflicted include Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax, Yankees infielder Chuck Knoblauch and former Nats outfielder Rick Ankiel, a one-time phenom pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Barrett became a reliever in 2011, fought through his struggles and by 2012 was on track to become a big leaguer again. On Monday, one week after an emotional meeting with Williams where he learned he’d made the team, that finally happened for Barrett. With the score 5-5 in the ninth, he struck out Omar Quintanilla and Ruben Tejada and got Travis d’Arnaud to fly out to center.

Harper stays in game after scare on slide

The Nationals survived an early scare in the top of the second inning when Bryce Harper was knocked woozy on a slide into second base, yet stayed in the game after passing a concussion test.

Harper was on first base after a leadoff walk and his team down 3-0. But on an ensuing ground ball to shortstop, Harper tried to break up a potential double play. He did that, but in the process Harper’s head caught the full brunt of the right shin and knee of New York second baseman Eric Young.

Harper lay motionless on the ground on his back for a short time and Washington trainers rushed onto the field to tend to him. After walking off slowly under his own power, Harper did return to his position in left field for the bottom of the second.

At the plate, Harper later popped out to left, reached on a hard infield single to second base and twice struck out. He said after the game that he underwent concussion testing again and once more passed.

• Brian McNally can be reached at bmcnally@washingtontimes.com.

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