Healthy Signs

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The Nationals did not have many questions entering camp this year. They have even fewer as they enter their final game of the Grapefruit League season, after which they will fly north to The District to begin the season ahead. With much of the 25-man roster presumed to be in place before the club even arrived in Viera, there were two major points of concern upon which most of the focus lay all spring: Wilson Ramos’s knee and Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder.

Both were coming off of offseason surgery, but both have steadily progressed through spring. If there were any lingering doubts left in the final 24 hours of their stay in Florida, each put them to bed Wednesday afternoon. Ramos blasted a pair of home runs and Zimmerman crushed three of Washington’s six total long balls in an 11-2 demolition of the division-rival Braves.

Pain free and catching full games again, Wilson Ramos can focus fully on his swing.

Pain free and catching full games again, Wilson Ramos can focus fully on his swing.

Ramos went the other way to right-center for his first roundtripper in the third inning. He followed that up with a mammoth blast to left in the fourth, off the top of the berm at Space Coast Stadium, just at the foot of the electronic scoreboard. They were the catcher’s first two home runs of the spring, but they came at a time when he is finally pain free and able to put all of the focus on his knee behind him.

“In the beginning of spring, I wasn’t working on my swing at all,” explained the backstop. “Three days ago, I finally started working on it.”

The results have paid off immediately.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, rounded into form just as expected. It’s been said repeatedly by manager Davey Johnson that the Nationals third baseman needs exactly 50 at-bats – no more, no less – to get ready for the season. Zimmerman entered the game sitting on 48 for the spring and struck out in his first trip. He then blasted home runs in spring at-bats numbers 50, 51 and 52, sandwiching a couple of moonshots to left around an opposite-field shot over a four-inning span.

With the luxury of gradually easing his way back into playing shape, knowing his skipper had a firm grasp on his projected starting lineup, Zimmerman looks comfortable and refreshed as the team begins packing for the season ahead.

“We’ve pretty much known all spring who our team is,” he said, referencing the unusually high number of returning players entrenched on the roster. “We just used this time to get to doing what we did last year.”

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