Ask Nationals rookie Pedro Severino about the biggest postseason game he's ever played in and he will turn to show-and-tell. In his locker in the Nats' clubhouse is the championship ring he won as a member of the 2014 Single-A Potomac Nationals. It's gold on the sides, jeweled on the top and heavier than it looks.
Now, just two years after he helped lead the P-Nats to the Carolina League title, the 23-year-old catcher is expected to play a significant role on the Nationals in the 2016 MLB postseason. With Wilson Ramos out due to a torn ACL, Severino is the next man up.
"I feel good. I'm ready to play. I'm ready for Friday," he said. "I have my first postseason game on Friday. I don't think there is any pressure. It's still baseball. There are more people. That's it."
Severino could, in fact, start in Game 1 on Friday. Manager Dusty Baker has already hinted at that possibility with lefty Clayton Kershaw set to pitch for the Dodgers. A right-handed batter, Severino hit .309 against lefties in the minors this season compared to .261 against righties.
Kershaw will offer a much tougher challenge than anyone Severino saw in the minors, of course.
"He's one of the best pitchers. Like my friend said a long time ago, if he controls the ball over the plate, I can do my best. The only thing is don't try to do too much with that guy. Just try to put the ball into play. That's important for me. I know he's the best pitcher, but I can't do anything about that," Severino said.
Severino only has five at-bats against left-handers in the majors this season, but his overall numbers are solid, albeit in a small sample size. Through 16 big league games he's 9-for-28 (.321) with two homers, four RBI, six runs, two doubles and five walks.
Severino, though, will be leaned on more so for his defense, the biggest reason why he is in this position as Ramos' replacement.
"He's pretty danged good back there framing the ball and throwing the ball. I think he'll be just fine," outfielder Bryce Harper said.
Severino has already stood out defensively, but has plenty to learn about the Nationals' pitching staff. He has nowhere near the experience that Ramos and Jose Lobaton have in dealing with Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and others.
Severino tries to learn as much as he can from Ramos and Lobaton whenever he's around them.
"I'm so proud because I can play on this team. Everyone here is like a family. We help each other," Severino said. "The first time when I got called up in September, Ramos got the lineup and taught me everybody. What pitch they have to throw, what pitch for every count. Loby has done it a couple times. I feel so proud because they play the same position that I play and they don't feel like there is something wrong if I play good or if I play bad. They try to help me. That's important."
Severino talks to the Nats' veteran catchers, but also picks up a lot simply by watching the veterans go to work.
"He's always paying attention. I don't ever have to tell him in the dugout to quit fooling around, to watch and see how they're pitching this guy," Baker said. "What's impressed me probably the most is his ability to recall what the gameplan is and how to make adjustments."
Ramos is out for these playoffs and likely most of next season, and is also an impending free agent, which means Severino has an opportunity this October to earn a larger role next year. The Nats have a lot of uncertainty at the catcher position and he could factor into the equation this winter.
"I've been impressed with what he's been doing," first baseman Clint Robinson said. "He's a young guy with something to prove. With the catching spot possibly up for grabs next year, he wants to prove that he's going to be that guy next year."
There are, of course, some pretty important things to take care of first.
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