New Detroit Tigers catcher Wilson Ramos, once kidnapped for 50 hours, excited about next chapter
The 2020 season has been tough on so many levels for so many players, including Wilson Ramos. To his surprise, his playing time shortened and he had one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. The two had nothing to do with each other, he thinks. And, oh, there was a pandemic more on the mind than OPS.
The 2020-21 off-season was just as difficult for the newest Tigers catcher, who first turned down his $ 10 million option from the New York Mets and then had to phone day in and day out before signing a one-year deal for $ 2 million with Detroit – only two weeks before the spring training should begin, or at least should begin. The free agent market has been at the turtle’s pace as owners don’t know when they’ll be selling tickets again.
On the other hand, catchers are traditionally tough, and Ramos more than most – despite the myriad injuries, including a torn ACL, he’s been a positive WAR player in each of his 11 major league seasons. The man was kidnapped in his home country of Venezuela in November 2011 and held for 50 hours as a ransom before the government rescued him in a shootout with his kidnappers. Hugo Chavez was updated regularly. Six were arrested.
“That was a difficult situation over there, that was really crazy,” Ramos said on Monday in his introductory press conference with the media in Detroit. “Especially when I was saved.
“Days after I was rescued, it was difficult to leave my house. Everything I heard in my sleep scared me. That was really difficult. I just want to say thank God that I came back with my family.
“I’ve already turned the page. I feel happy.”
He hopes that luck will continue with the Tigers, who made a starting catcher their priority at the start of the off-season. They scoured the market looking at Jason Castro, who signed with the Houston Astros, and old friend Alex Avila, who got a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals.
Tigers Brass decided to start over, with a franchise that hoped for the same thing – starting with their young stable, which was all about attracting potential customers who will now serve as a guide for Ramos’ success.
He’s already spoken to one of them – “The one on the left, Floyd, is that his name?”
Matthew Boyd. Near enough.
The rest of the conversations will begin soon and will continue around the clock. Communication, said Ramos, will be key to making an impact. At least one of the keys.
“The first thing I want is to get good communication with them and be on the same page. I’ve done it in the past with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets,” said Ramos, who is also responsible for the Washington Nationals has played ex-Tiger Max Scherzer’s 20 strikeout game in 2016 against the Tigers.
“I know how to handle it.”
The Tigers rotation after Boyd is expected to include a mix of top prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, as well as Michael Fulmer and Spencer Turnbull, as well as Jose Urena, the Tigers’ only other free agent contract I’m on the big league roster bound. Matt Manning could be out soon. Veteran Derek Holland, who officially signed a minor league contract on Monday, could also be a wild card.
But mostly it will be young people with whom Ramos, himself 33, will work.
This is definitely an excitement and also a challenge.
“It will be a good challenge,” he said. “My locker is open around the clock.”
For any catcher, priority # 1 is defense and handling of staff. Every crime is a bonus.
But for Ramos, insult is also key. He’s had up to 22 homers and 80 RBIs in one season and an OPS over 800 twice.
He hopes the 2020 season was an outlier, cutting .239 / .297 / .387 down. He had five homers in 45 games.
An intense off-season training program, conducted largely in conjunction with the Tigers franchise and compatriot Miguel Cabrera – they’ve known each other and have been working together for more than a decade – aims to pay off in this part of his game. He’s lost about 30 pounds, from 275 to 245.
Ramos, who gives the Tigers three right-handed catchers along with Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers, continued to refine his swing to improve baseball – even at Comerica Park, where flyballs often die. That’s not a problem, said Ramos. The swing is only designed to make good contact, not necessarily on home runs. He likes to go to the center-right, and that’s most of Detroit’s ballpark. His friends joked with him that he is likely to grow his career three times to two.
“I’m working on that right now,” said Ramos of his swing, adding that he had already spoken to manager AJ Hinch about daily gaming – another key he believes to help resolve his offensive problems. “Last year I tried to keep the ball in the air more. It was a crazy year. I couldn’t think too much. We were mainly concerned about not getting infected. That was a difficult year.”
And if anyone knows hard, it’s Ramos.
Twitter: @ tonypaul1984