The Tampa Bay Rays franchise long nightmare at the catcher position could be coming to a merciful end soon. Wilson Ramos is ramping up his baseball activities, and is getting closer to going on a rehab assignment.
The Tampa Bay Rays knew they would be without Wilson Ramos for the majority of the first half of the season. His torn ACL, suffered on September 29th last season, required surgery, delaying his start for the 2017 campaign. Nonetheless, as the top free agent catcher when healthy, the Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a two year, $12.5 Million contract, knowing they would need to be patient as Ramos worked his way back.
Now, Ramos is getting closer to his return. He recently had begun running and hitting, and now, according to Marc Topkin, has progressed to the point where he is getting some work in behind the plate. If all goes well, Ramos is expected to begin catching bullpen sessions and working on blocking balls in the dirt next week.
Of course, this does not mean that a return to the lineup is eminent. Ramos will still need to head out on a rehab assignment, which may not begin until late May. As the Rays will likely be cautious with their biggest offseason signing, that likely means that Ramos will not be ready for the Majors until mid June at the earliest.
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Even though he is likely to spend a good deal of time as the Rays designated hitter, having him behind the plate will give Tampa Bay something they have never had: an actual threat in the lineup behind the plate. That lack of success in the batter’s box has extended to this season, as Rays catcher rank 25th in baseball with a .598 OPS, .281 on base percentage, and a .317 slugging percentage.
It is also fair to wonder what this would mean for Derek Norris. While it is generally assumed that Jesus Sucre will be heading to the minors once Ramos is ready, Norris has not exactly acquitted himself well at the plate. Not counting yesterday’s action, Norris has a .217/.282/.315 batting line on the year. While that is about par for the course for Rays catching, it does not justify extensive playing time once Ramos is ready to come back.
The Tampa Bay Rays continued struggles to find a catcher that can produce with the bat may be drawing to an end. As Wilson Ramos is getting closer to making his debut for the Rays, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.