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Ramos draws cleanup assignment for opener

NEW YORK -- For the first game of the season, manager Matt Williams decided to place catcher Wilson Ramos in the cleanup spot, followed by outfielder Bryce Harper.

Williams said, simply, that Ramos is "one of the best middle-of-the-lineup guys," even though he doesn't have much experience batting fourth. Most of Ramos' at-bats have come from the eighth spot in the order; he is 6-for-20 with two RBIs as a cleanup hitter.

During Spring Training, Ramos led the team in RBIs, with 13. Williams thought about using Ramos as his cleanup hitter for a couple of weeks, but drawing the Opening Day assignment is not a guarantee that Ramos will be hitting fourth every game. It could change depending on who the Nationals are facing.

Ramos found out that he was hitting cleanup on Sunday by looking at the lineup card. What was his reaction? He was surprised, but ready to drive in runs.

"I feel excited. It's not the first time," Ramos said. "I know [I've not hit in the cleanup spot many times] in my career. But I feel comfortable in the fourth spot. I feel happy because the manager has confidence in me, so it made me feel good."

Ian Desmond said that Ramos has come a long way, having put his knee and hamstring injuries behind him.

"He has proven that he is worthy of hitting in that fourth spot," Desmond said. "He is a good player, and we are excited to have him, and I'm excited for the world to know who Wilson Ramos is. We know he is going to help this team win a lot of games. More importantly than the offense, it's also what he can do defensively and working with that pitching staff. He is tremendous like that."

As for Harper, most of his experience has been hitting second or third in the order. Batting fifth gives him an opportunity to "open his game a little bit," per Williams, which means driving in runs and stealing bases.

"It's interesting to see what Bryce can do. He has the ability to beat the other team a lot of different ways," Williams said. "He has hit fifth a lot this spring. He has a lot of opportunities to drive in runs, and we want to continue to do that. We want him in situations where he can win games for us. That's a good spot for him. That will change, too, sometimes."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos