As the Washington Nationals have trudged on through 2013, injuries are what many have pointed to as the reason why they sit on July 3rd with a 42-41 record. Tomorrow, however, could end that talk, as Wilson Ramos is set to return from hamstring problems and be plugged right back into the starting lineup.
Ramos has not played since May 15th with hamstring problems but was batting .250/.308/.438 with two home runs and six RBI before the two injury stints. Washington took things very slow with Ramos, who also had a setback during this stint, and the Nationals should consider a change in strategy with Ramos and the catcher position as a whole.
Washington should, for at least a month or so, consider carrying three catchers. The organization has the depth to do this, especially with the signing of Kelly Shoppach today to a Minor League deal. Having a third catcher could allow Ramos or even Kurt Suzuki to be taken out of games earlier, taking less strain off of their legs and perhaps allowing them to return fresher the next day.
With health being such a huge issue this season, this is something Washington should give a shot, perhaps even just piggy-back Suzuki or Ramos with Jhonotan Solano for 5/4 or 6/3 inning stints where the starter gets the lion’s share of the playing time and Solano comes in to “relieve” one of the two.
The three catcher strategy would also allow the Nationals to cut some dead weight, or perhaps demote a player so they can get more playing time and straighten themselves out. Though his defense is valuable, Washington could keep Solano at the expense of a guy like Roger Bernadina, who has pretty much been a ghost offensively but plays monster defense. That is important, but keeping your catcher of the future healthy is way more valuable.
Washington probably will not do this, as they would likely prefer to demote Solano so he gets more playing time, but it is definitely something they need to consider, as Ramos’ hamstring could start to bark again at any time.