MIAMI -- If Jim Riggleman stays true to form, Wilson Ramos will be behind the plate for tonight's series finale (with the Nationals needing to beat ace Josh Johnson to avoid another sweep at the hands of the Marlins). But if Riggleman stays true to form, Ivan Rodriguez will be back in the lineup tomorrow afternoon at Citi Field, regardless of what Ramos does tonight.
It's been the manager's intention all along to have his two catchers split the job 50-50 through the season's first couple of weeks, knowing at some point Ramos would likely ascend to the No. 1 role.
Problem is, Riggleman may need to consider making that transition even sooner than he expected, because Rodriguez is seriously hurting the Nationals at the plate right now.
With an 0-for-4 showing last night, Pudge remains hitless for the season in 10 overall at-bats. Yes, he did reach twice (on a fielder's choice and an error) but each came on weakly struck groundballs to the left side of the infield, his speciality these days.
It's not just that Rodriguez is 0-for-10. It's the way he's gotten to 0-for-10. If he was striking line drives right at fielders, if he was working the count, it would be one thing. But he's not.
Eight of Rodriguez's 10 at-bats so far have been groundballs, six of them to the left side of the infield. He's reached the outfield once (a flyout to center on Sunday) and he has one strikeout (leading off the ninth last night).
Rodriguez has gotten ahead in the count only twice in 10 plate appearances, and he's fallen behind 0-2 four times already.
Ramos, meanwhile, is 5-for-10 to open the season, with three opposite-field singles. Like Pudge, he's fallen behind in the count more often than not, down 0-1 eight times in 10 plate appearances. But he's actually got five hits in those situations.
Yes, these are all incredibly small sample sizes, and we shouldn't put too much stock in these numbers so early in the season. But what have your eyes told you so far watching the two catchers? When Rodriguez steps to the plate, you expect him to make an unproductive out. When Ramos steps to the plate, you expect at least a quality at-bat.
All of this gets magnified when the Nationals as a team are struggling so mightily to produce clutch hits (they're now 6-for-43 with runners in scoring position). But it's all the more reason to wonder if it's already time to start giving Ramos more at-bats than his veteran teammate.
To his credit, Rodriguez has been calling good games behind the plate and has made a couple of nice throws (he gunned down Omar Infante trying to steal third last night). Certainly, he has value to the Nationals.
But team officials haven't disguised their long-term plan. Ramos will be the No. 1 catcher at some point this season.
Maybe sooner than we figured.