May 2, 2014, 6:22 PM EST
PHILADELPHIA — Wilson Ramos made his return to the field earlier Friday at extended spring training and immediately gave the Nationals reason to believe it won’t be much longer before their starting catcher returns from a broken bone in his left hand.
Ramos caught three innings in Viera, getting three at-bats in which he homered twice and doubled once.
So why wasn’t manager Matt Williams downright giddy over that news?
“It’s a pretty good sign that he’s feeling good at the plate, that he doesn’t have apprehension swinging,” Williams said. “I just worry about his legs. I want to make sure, we all want to make sure, that he’s ready to go behind the plate.”
Williams’ point: Even if Ramos’ hand is completely healed following surgery for the broken hamate bone he suffered on Opening Day, the Nationals have to be careful not to rush him back to the lineup before he has had a chance to work the rest of his body back into game shape.
Ramos is scheduled to catch six innings on Saturday, then nine innings on Monday. Williams said he will most likely need to get at-bats against tougher competition, such as a rehab assignment at Class A Potomac or Class AA Harrisburg, before coming off the disabled list.
Ramos has been hoping to make his return during the Nationals’ home series against the Dodgers next week. Williams said that is “possible” but the more likely scenario would have Ramos coming back in time for next weekend’s series in Oakland, where he could serve as designated hitter once or twice.
The fact Ramos has dealt with multiple leg injuries the last two seasons factors into the club’s decision.
“He’s been out a month, roughly, and not catching,” Williams said. “You’ve just got to get back in the flow of it. Look at spring training; it takes them a long time to get going and maintain that. And I worry about his legs. I worry that, given his history, that he’s fully in shape when he does come back.”
Other injury updates:
— Scott Hairston went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk Thursday for Class AAA Syracuse and is playing again Friday night for the Chiefs. The veteran outfielder, returning from a strained oblique muscle, could be on track to rejoin the Nationals as soon as Monday. “He’s almost there,” Williams said. “We’ll see how that goes, too. With that type of injury, you don’t know. One swing can do it again. But he’s feeling good, he’s looking good. I think he’s well on his way.”
— Ryan Zimmerman has not been cleared to resume baseball activities yet and won’t be until an X-ray confirms his broken thumb has healed to the point where he can’t cause further damage by playing. Zimmerman has been out nearly three weeks; the club initially said he would miss 4-to-6 weeks after suffering the injury. At this point, it looks like he’ll return toward the latter end of that window. “He’s got to pass that last X-ray that says it’s matted down,” Williams said. “Then he can start his activities. But he’s going to have to have that first. Because if you set it back, then you have to start all over again.”
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
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