Will Rizzo, Nationals go after reliever?
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Conventional wisdom, entering the Winter Meetings, suggested the Nationals were in the market for a veteran backup catcher, someone who could be a reliable No. 2 behind Wilson Ramos.
Mike Rizzo, though, appeared to quash that line of thinking on Monday, saying he believes Ramos can start 125 or more games in 2014, with Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon capably backing him up.
"I don't think he needs any more regular time off than any other front-line, full-time catcher," Rizzo said of Ramos. "He can play regularly. I don't know what the average everyday catcher caught ... what, about a 125-128 games? I think he can take on that load. And if that's the case, we feel good about what we've got as our backups."
Ramos has yet to start more than 106 games in a big-league season, and he has been limited to 101 total starts the last two seasons combined due to a torn knee ligament and a recurring hamstring strain.
But the 26-year-old came back strong during the second half of the season and started 63 of the Nationals' final 78 games, including a stretch of 23 consecutive starts behind the plate from Aug. 22-Sept. 15.
If he can maintain that type of pace over a full season, Ramos would be right on course to start 125-130 games in 2014, leaving only 32-37 games for a No. 2 catcher to take over. The Nationals are confident Solano and/or Leon could handle that load, even though the two young catchers have combined to appear in only 50 big-league games while batting a collective .228.
Based on Rizzo's comments Monday, the Nationals would feel the need to acquire a more experienced catcher only if Ramos was injured and needed to be replaced for a prolonged stretch, as they did in Aug. 2012 when they traded for Kurt Suzuki.
"The question comes in: If Wilson were to get hurt for an extended period of time, can they handle the load?" Rizzo said. "Going into spring training right now, we're comfortable with what we have. We're always looking to upgrade. We did it two years ago when Wilson got hurt and we went and got a Suzuki. That would probably be the plan of attack going forward, because we feel good about where Ramos is health-wise."