WASHINGTON — Amid the boos and apathy during the Mets introductions on Opening Day at Nationals Park came a burst of applause and cheers.
Wilson Ramos is still a beloved figure in this city, three seasons after moving on from the Nationals.
“I liked playing here,” the Mets catcher said. “There is nothing better than you come on the field and you feel that support from the fans. I played six good years here, the fans gave me great support, so they make me feel very good every time I come back here.”
It’s a different scene than Ramos left after the 2016 season to sign with the Rays. Most notably, Bryce Harper now plays for the Phillies, but Jayson Werth has retired, and the Nationals have turned to a youth movement that centers largely on Juan Soto and Victor Robles, who augment Antony Rendon and Trea Turner, among others.
For Ramos the challenge is figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of Robles and Soto, the latter of which he saw in a small dose last season after returning to the NL East in a trade deadline deal to the Phillies.
“Right now there is a lot of young players that I don’t know yet and I have to start studying those young guys,” Ramos said. “The old guys played when I first came up to the big leagues, I played a long time against them, but the new guys I have to know more about them. That is why I have to go to the video room and study all those guys.”
Ramos seemed to have a good idea Thursday, calling for a changeup that Jacob deGrom unleashed, fooling Robles. The rookie flailed at the pitch for the strike three, helping the Mets ace escape trouble in the sixth, his final inning of work.
Robles had been hunting the fastball during his at-bat, leading Ramos to believe the rookie could be fooled with two strikes.
“That is what I try to do, help those guys, but they have the ball,” Ramos said. “They have the decision, and that is what I told them: ‘You have the ball and you have the decision. If you don’t want to throw that pitch, let me know, and we will do another thing.’ But those guys have been throwing very good, they trust me and I am very happy for them.”
The Mets signed the 31-year-old catcher to a two-year contract worth $19 million in the offseason to bolster a position that has been problematic in recent seasons due to Travis d’Arnaud’s injuries and underproduction from his replacements.
Ramos went 1-for-4 at the plate — delivering a single for one of the Mets’ only two hits against his former battery mate Max Scherzer.
In Scherzer’s Cy Young award winning season in 2016, his primary catcher was Ramos. Now Ramos has last year’s Cy Young winner in deGrom.
“Both pitchers are really good,” Ramos said. “They throw the ball really good and with guys like that you don’t have that much to do. They can really throw the ball, so I don’t have that much to do. Just try to stay on the same pace, good communication.”