Sunday, July 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

The Rays have been waiting for that sound all season. The sound of Wilson Ramos' bat in the heart of the lineup. The sound the Rays already noisy offense will make once the 2016 All-Star and National League Silver Slugger-winning catcher joins the fun.

Ramos, nicknamed "The Buffalo" by former Washington teammate Ian Desmond (or maybe it was a minor league coach, there are conflicting stories), is expected to join the Rays on Sunday after spending all of spring training and the first part of the season rehabbing from October surgery on his left knee.

"It will be huge, especially right now," outfielder Peter Bourjos said. "We're playing great baseball and hopefully he's a guy who can put us over the top."

Bourjos spent the last three seasons in the National League, including 2016 in the NL East with the Phillies, and is a witness to what Ramos brings to a team.

"He's a guy you never wanted up to the plate," Bourjos said. "It seemed like he always got the big hit. He was always putting together a good at-bats, and on top of it he can leave the yard at any time."

The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Ramos enjoyed a breakout season last summer when he posted career highs in batting (.307), home runs (22), RBI (80) and slugging percentage (.496). The knee injury suffered Sept. 26 ended his season.

The Rays signed him to a two-year, $12.5 million contract in December, knowing he would miss the first half of this season but excited at the prospect of adding an all-star catcher to their lineup.

That Ramos will join the team nearly a month ahead of schedule is a bonus.

"It's exciting," coach Jamie Nelson, who works with the catchers, said. "I think everybody is pumped about it."

And what can Ramos bring?

"Hopefully a lot," manager Kevin Cash said. "He's a proven player, a proven really good defender. A proven hitter. I would imagine he's going to come and sit right in the middle of our lineup somewhere. A right-handed bat that is going to help us against some left-handed pitching. From the catching aspect, he's caught playoff rotations. His knowledge in those environments I'm sure is going to help our pitchers."

Nationals pitchers combined for a 3.45 ERA with Ramos behind the plate, the lowest among major league catchers. Ramos was fifth in the majors with a 33.3 caught stealing percentage.

He was a strong arm and soft hands needed for framing the strike zone.

"It's impressive how he can move for a big fellow," Nelson said. "The agility. Even after his injury his feet are quick."

Ramos began catching bullpens as soon as he was cleared for baseball activities. He attended all the pre-series pitcher-catcher meetings when the Rays were home until his minor league rehab took him to out of town, so he has a working knowledge of what to expect when he begins catching for the Rays.

"He's a big leaguer. He's an all-star. He'll figure it out," Nelson said. "And it will be nice to have that stick in the lineup. He's going to definitely help. It'll be a big boost."

Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50

   
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