Apr 2, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
NEW YORK — Though the Nationals have said nothing official about the status of Wilson Ramos’ injured left hand, all signs point to a broken hamate bone, the latest in string of unfortunate maladies for the snakebitten catcher.
If surgery is needed to remove the bone — and sources last night said that had not yet been determined — Ramos would likely miss about six weeks, give or take. The effects of the surgery could linger beyond that timeframe, though, especially when it comes to his power stroke at the plate.
Hamate bone breaks are quite common for baseball players (and golfers). They’re usually the result of repeated pressure on the base of the wrist from swinging a bat or club. When that particular bone breaks, it’s removed from the wrist altogether, given its unnecessary existence in the first place.
Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman both dealt with hamate bone injuries earlier in their careers, though Desmond was in the minors at the time and Zimmerman had his surgery performed early in the offseason and missed no actual game time.
Regardless of the final diagnosis and course of treatment, it’s pretty clear right now the Nationals are going to once again be without Ramos for a prolonged period. And that’s a significant loss, as we’ve seen in the past.
The Nationals simply weren’t the same team without Ramos during the first half of 2013, when he made two DL stints with hamstring strains. Once he did return in July, his impact immediately was noticeable.
Ramos led the entire club with 53 RBI over the season’s final three months. His presence behind the plate helped the pitching staff improve over the second half, and helped slow down opponents’ running game. And given the way he hit the ball all spring, and the way he looked and felt physically, there was ample reason for supreme optimism entering 2014.
So, what now? General manager Mike Rizzo, wisely taking into consideration Ramos’ injury history, traded for Jose Lobaton on the first day of spring training. Clearly, the Nationals are better prepared to deal with this situation now than they were before the trade.
But the drop-off between Ramos and Lobaton will be significant. The 29-year-old is a career .229 hitter, though he showed improvement last season with the Rays, hitting .249 with seven homers and .714 OPS over 311 plate appearances. Behind the plate, Lobaton has been touted as a strong pitch framer. But he’s still learning the Nationals’ pitching staff, and his throwing skills don’t compare to Ramos.
You also have to take into account the fact Lobaton won’t be catching every single day. Manager Matt Williams is going to need to give him regular days off, which means the new backup catcher (most likely Sandy Leon getting promoted from Class AA Harrisburg) is going to get more than his fair share of playing time.
Point is, the Nationals will suffer from a prolonged Ramos DL stint. They’re still loaded with talent across the roster, and Rizzo has done a nice job addressing depth issues to deal with exactly these type of situations.
But there’s simply no replacing Wilson Ramos.
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