CINCINNATI -- Before the season started, the Nationals said they were going to start Wilson Ramos off slowly because he was coming off a devastating knee injury sustained last May against the Reds.
But to the surprise of many in the organization, Ramos has fully recovered and was off to a 4-for-9 start with two home runs through Saturday.
Hitting coach Rick Eckstein has noticed a change in Ramos. For one, Ramos lost about 15 pounds and looks mobile behind the plate. During Spring Training, Ramos said he would have never had the knee injury if he was in better shape.
Last season, Eckstein gave Ramos the nickname Buffalo. Now Ramos calls himself Bison because of the weight he lost before the season started.
"He is definitely in tip-top shape," Eckstein said. "Wilson has worked so hard this offseason to get back and be ready to go this spring. He has impressed everyone with his level of conditioning. He was on a strenuous program to be ready for the season. ... He hasn't skipped a beat. It's great to see. Wilson is a high-quality character guy that has tremendous talent. He has done a great job."
LaRoche hopes to return Tuesday
CINCINNATI - Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said his back was feeling much better and that he hoped to play against the White Sox on Tuesday at Nationals Park.
LaRoche missed the last two games against the Reds because of back tightness.
"It's a little better today," LaRoche said. "I didn't do anything. I think that's what got it better. I took some muscle relaxing stuff to stop the grip [in my back]. I can move around a little more today. A little bit of nothing is what I'm doing."
Werth exhibiting regained power homer by homer
CINCINNATI -- In Saturday's 7-6 victory over the Reds, Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth hit his second homer of the season off right-hander Sam LeCure. In fact, hitting coach Rick Eckstein called it a "pure" home run because the ball traveled 419 feet.
It's another indication that Werth's power is back and that his left wrist has fully recovered. Last season, Werth broke the wrist in early May while catching a fly ball.
After coming off the disabled list in early August, Werth hit just two home runs. He had that many home runs in four games this season.
"He looks great. He has really worked hard on his positioning in the batter's box," Eckstein said. "He feels like he is in position that he can drive the baseball. On Saturday, he hit a line drive that just kept carrying. He feeling good about what he is doing and where he is. He is continuing to grow in that process. It's looks like his wrist is doing great. I just like where he is at."
After miscue, Harper urged to exhibit more control
CINCINNATI -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper continues to show that he is not perfect in the outfield. During Saturday's 7-6 victory over the Reds, Devin Mesoraco reached base on an error by Ian Desmond, scoring Jay Bruce. The ball went to Harper, who overthrew the cutoff man while trying to throw Bruce out at the plate. It allowed the Reds runners to advance to second and third, but Cincinnati did not score any more runs in the inning.
Manager Davey Johnson said Harper must find a way to control his emotions on the field.
"[Harper] can't control his emotions; he is going to have to learn," Johnson said. "He understands it, but he can't control his emotions. He is a smart player, but he gets wound up at any moment. If he keeps the ball down, then he throws him out."
Harper acknowledged that he made a mistake but said, "If I throw him out, I'm perfect. If I don't, everybody will look at me and say I'm terrible. Nothing I can do."
Teammate Jayson Werth said Harper is a special player but has a lot to learn about the game of baseball.
"He's young. He is going to play a long time. He is a work in progress," Werth said.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.