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Ramos starting to pay dividends for Tampa Bay

Catcher, coming off knee surgery, hits first homer as a Ray
MLB.com @wwchastain

BALTIMORE -- Behind the dish is where "The Buffalo" roams for the Rays.

Wilson Ramos, aka "The Buffalo," is catching ahead of schedule in his return from knee surgery, and the Rays, 6-4 winners over Baltimore on Friday, are beginning to enjoy the fruits of the talented 29-year-old receiver.

Full Game Coverage

BALTIMORE -- Behind the dish is where "The Buffalo" roams for the Rays.

Wilson Ramos, aka "The Buffalo," is catching ahead of schedule in his return from knee surgery, and the Rays, 6-4 winners over Baltimore on Friday, are beginning to enjoy the fruits of the talented 29-year-old receiver.

Full Game Coverage

Ramos entered Friday night's game hitting just .111 with no home runs and an RBI. The aura of his offense changed in the second when he re-routed an 85.7-mph Chris Tillman slider 417 feet over the center-field scoreboard. The barreled ball had a 101-mph exit velocity with a 30-degree launch angle and gave the Rays a 2-0 lead.

The implications of Ramos' blast ran deeper than simply giving the Rays the lead, though.

"I was looking for something in the zone," Ramos said. "... The first two pitches I missed it. But the last one I was looking for something in the zone, and he hung that one.

"Right now, I'm feeling a lot better. I'm recognizing the pitches better. That's my approach. When I start recognizing the pitches, I'll start feeling better."

For years the team has longed to have a special someone behind the plate. Ramos has the look of a catcher who can quiet even the most cynical Rays fan.

Ramos won a Silver Slugger for his work with the Nationals in 2016 when he hit .307 with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs. Unfortunately for the native of Venezuela, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sept. 26. He spent the entire offseason recovering from the surgery that repaired the ACL, and made repairs to the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus.

The faith the Rays showed in signing him to a two-year, $12.5 million deal on Dec. 12 now appears to be on the verge of paying rich dividends.

"Behind the plate he's looked fine," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I think he's done a really good job of having the knowledge going in. When we activated him he had a pretty good knowledge of our pitchers and what they like to do. And mix in what he likes to do.

"At the plate, we know it's going to take a little time. But at any given moment he's going to find the barrel and hit a ball out. Today, I don't even think he found the barrel. I think it beat him a little bit, but he's a strong man."

Ramos doesn't feel like he's there offensively quit yet, but it's coming.

"That's all I need is some at-bats," Ramos said. "As soon as I get more and more at-bats, I'll feel better and better every day."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays, Wilson Ramos