VIERA, Fla. -- It might not have looked like much -- 10 minutes spent catching pitches from left-hander Zach Duke -- but for Wilson Ramos, this morning's workout represented a major milestone on the long road back from major knee surgery.
Ramos caught a bullpen session for the first time since he tore the ACL in his right knee last May and emerged with a wide smile following the Nationals' first official workout of the spring.
"I was crazy to start playing again," he said. "Now I put my gear on, and I'm very happy for that. It was great to put it on. Now I feel like I'm on the team again. I'm back."
Ramos had squatted and received some pitches before, but not a full session like this, with Duke throwing all of his pitches and even a bouncing a couple in the dirt. Ramos didn't exert himself to corral those errant balls -- he still needs to overcome that hurdle before he pronounces himself 100 percent healthy -- but he got enough of a workout today to impress his batterymate.
"He said he was getting a little tired towards the end, and that's understandable," Duke said. "But it looked like he hasn't missed any time. He's definitely got the desire to get back out there."
Ramos admits it will be even more of a challenge once he starts playing in games again, with plenty more physical activity required than in bullpen sessions.
"You have to block the balls," he said. "You have to be running behind first base for every groundball to short, second. You have to keep moving. It's more hard in the game. I'm working hard to be behind the plate in the games. When I start playing again, hopefully it will be good."
The Nationals will continue to bring Ramos along slowly. He'll only catch one bullpen session per day for now before ramping up like his teammates.
But considering what happened nine months ago, the mere sight of Ramos squatting behind a plate and catching pitches in spring training was sweet for team officials.
"I just watched him and the reaction he had when he got through, and he was grinning from ear-to-ear," manager Davey Johnson said. "In talking to him, he said it was just a little bit weaker, but no pain. Then he hit really good. Said it didn't bother him at all swinging the bat. We're just going to take it easy with him, but he should be fine."