NEW YORK -- After getting hit on the head by Eric Young's knee during Monday's Opener, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was OK to start against the Mets on Wednesday night.
Harper was hitting sixth in the order, and manager Matt Williams said he wanted to take the pressure off Harper as well as open up Harper's game as far as the running game is concerned. Williams doesn't want Harper to hit near the top of the order. If Harper is on base, for example, Williams doesn't want him to attempt to steal a base with Jayson Werth or Ryan Zimmerman at the plate.
"[By hitting sixth], it allows him to use his legs, and I think that is important," Williams said. "We look at tonight as an example. [Mets pitcher] Bartolo Colon is really quick to the plate. Whether it's an opportunity to [steal bases], you never know. We want to give him the option to do so. He is a five-tool guy. He can beat that other team in many ways. We want to give him an opportunity to do that.
"From a manager's perspective, if I hit him second in front of Jayson and Zim, do I really want him to try to steal second? We are one swing away from a two-run homer or a three-run homer. That's the logic. Most of all, I want him to be free and play and not have those boundaries on him. For me, over the long run, Harper will drive in big runs for us."
Lobaton feels bad for friend, teammate Ramos
NEW YORK -- Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton felt bad for teammate Wilson Ramos, who is going to miss at least a month because of hamate bone surgery on his left hand. The surgery took place Wednesday, and Ramos is expected to rejoin the team in Washington on Thursday.
Ramos took to Twitter and thanked the fans for their support: "Thank you to all of you. [S]urgery went [well]. I will be back soon with the arms up. The búfalo love[s] you all," Ramos wrote.
Ramos has had plenty of bad luck over the past three years. He missed most of the 2012 season because of a devastating injury to his right knee, and he missed half of the 2013 campaign because of hamstring issues.
Labaton spoke to Ramos on Tuesday and tried to cheer Ramos up. In turn, Ramos told Lobaton to play hard and try to win games. With Ramos out, Labaton will be the team's No. 1 catcher.
"I'm going to play more, but at the same time, Wilson is a friend and my teammate," Lobaton said. "You never want to get hurt. … Sometimes, it's out of your hands. He [was swinging the bat] and he felt something. Sometimes, you don't know when it's going to happen. He has to be strong and come back strong."
With Ramos placed on disabled list, the Nationals recalled catcher Sandy Leon, who will play behind Lobaton. Leon has known Ramos since they were 5 years old. Leon was on his way to Double-A Harrisburg when he received word that he was getting promoted to the big leagues because of Ramos' injury.
"I didn't expect to be [in the big leagues] so fast," Leon said. "I feel really bad for Wilson, because he is my friend and we are from Venezuela."
Leon was on the Spring Training roster until the close to the last day of camp, and he left a good impression on manager Matt Williams.
"I love his defensive prowess, and I think it's important for our club," Williams said. "He had a great [season in] winter ball. From my understanding and talking to our staff, he has really made some nice improvements from a year ago. It came down to a decision in Spring Training where we were thinking about bringing him [to the big leagues] anyway. It's a big reason why he is here today."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Andrew Simon contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.