Ramos makes long-awaited Rays debut

June 24th, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG --  went 1-for-4 with a single from the sixth spot in the order in Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Orioles, his first game since returning from knee surgery.

Ramos led off the ninth inning with a single up the middle for his first hit since Sept. 26, the day his breakout 2016 abruptly ended.

"We were all genuinely excited to have him back there. I know he was pumped," manager Kevin Cash said. "I would imagine he probably had some jitters there early on just to get back in a big league game, he's worked really hard. … It was nice to see him get that hit at the end to get that off his back. Now just go play."

Ramos tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last September while playing for the Nationals. When it happened, he was in the final week of a career year in which he batted .307 with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs.

After signing Ramos to a two-year, $12.5 million deal in December, the Rays finally got a chance to see the 2016 All-Star play.

"This team and clubhouse are obviously very excited," Cash said before the game. "We were excited when we signed him this offseason, and probably a little bit more excited now that we get to see him play for us. We've seen his work in his rehab and got to know him as a guy, and he's going to fit in really well here."

Ramos' first assignment was to catch rookie pitcher , who won each of his first three starts while allowing one run in each contest entering Saturday. Cash alerted Faria on Friday that Ramos would catch him, and told him to communicate to Ramos what pitches he thinks have been effective for him so far.

"Wilson's a veteran catcher that has a lot of knowledge on how to navigate pitchers through innings and games," Cash said. "I think they'll work really well together."

Faria threw to in each of his three starts, but Norris was designated for assignment after Friday's game to make room for Ramos.

"It was an easy transition," Faria said. "Washington plays Baltimore every year, so he knows these hitters too. Same as throwing to [Norris], trusting what he's putting down and going from there."

Norris went 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs Friday, bringing his season line to a .201 average with nine round-trippers and 24 RBIs.

"It was a difficult decision. A lot of thought went into it," Cash said. "I think given where we feel Wilson's workload is and will continue to get, and the complement to [Jesus] Sucre to add to our team was the best fit."

As the starting catcher, Ramos played 131 games for the Nationals in 2016, and 128 the year prior. Cash added the way Sucre works with the pitching staff and his ability to limit opposing baserunners made him the ideal fit for the roster.

"Derek Norris did a lot of good things to help us win games here for the first three months," Cash said. "Any time you're talking about that, they're difficult decisions. He handled it as a pro and we wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully he gets an opportunity to go back there and play everyday because he's earned the right and showed that he's capable of doing that."

Boxberger nearing return

Reliever Brad Boxberger's return from his lat muscle injury has been slightly delayed.

"He came in yesterday, obviously our plans were to activate him on the weekend, but he felt something in the side oblique area," Cash said. "He'll throw a bullpen tomorrow and we'll see how he recovers from it."

Boxberger has yet to pitch in 2017. Two years ago he made the All-Star team while leading the AL with 41 saves. Injuries limited him to 27 games in 2016.