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Ramos had grip on Mets from first handshake

December 18, 2018
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New York Mets catcher Wilson Ramos poses for a picture after an introductory news conference at Citi Field, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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New York Mets catcher Wilson Ramos poses for a picture after an introductory news conference at Citi Field, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) — Wilson Ramos had a grip on the New York Mets from the moment he walked into their winter meetings suite in Las Vegas last week.

“It was his handshake,” new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen recalled Tuesday at the catcher’s introductory news conference. “As some of you may get to know, this guy has really big, strong, strong mitts here for hands.”

Ramos agreed to a $19 million, two-year contract, the fourth All-Star to join the Mets since Van Wagenen was hired in late October. New York acquired second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from Seattle and brought back former closer Jeurys Familia as a setup man.

“Internally, we would argue that we’re the favorites in the division right now,” Van Wagenen told the team’s SNY network.

Ramos commanded the room, according to Van Wagenen, when he met with the GM, manager Mickey Callaway and other New York executives. Ramos looked at home during the Citi Field news conference, wearing a sports shirt and sneakers as he slipped on a Mets jersey with his No. 40 — pitcher Jason Vargas agreed to switch to No. 44. Ramos maintained he has completely recovered from a tore right ACL in September 2016, which delayed his first game of the following season until late June.

“Right now I feel 100 percent,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard, training really good in Florida. That made me feel confident to work in every part of my body, not only my knee.”

Ramos has a lengthy injury history. His 2012 season ended May 12 when he tore the medial meniscus in his right knee while running after a passed ball. He went on the disabled list twice the following year after straining his left hamstring while running out a grounder. He broke the hamate bone in his left hand when hit by a foul tip on opening day in 2014, which sidelined him until May 7, then missed two weeks that June due to a strained right hamstring.

He tore his ACL in 2016 when he landed awkwardly while catching a throw. He missed another month last summer after straining his right hamstring while running on a grounder.

“We did a lot of research on his medical file,” Van Wagenen said. “We obviously did a physical examination of him, and we were able to get really good detailed video of some of his workouts that he was doing this offseason.”

Ramos’ arrival could lead New York to giving Travis d’Arnaud some time at first or third base or in left field. New York also may carry three catchers — Kevin Plawecki is out of options.

Ramos’ deal includes a $2 million signing bonus payable next July 1, $6.25 million in 2019 and $9.25 million in 2020. The Mets have a $10 million option for 2021 with a $1.5 million buyout. Ramos would earn a $500,000 bonus in each season he has 100 starts at catcher.

New York was seeking offense from the right side of the plate in the absence of Yoenis Cespedes, expected to be sidelined for a significant part of the season while recovering from surgery on both heels. Van Wagenen called the 31-year-old Ramos a “guy that can keep us a little bit above water on that side of the plate until Cespedes comes back.”

Ramos hit .306 with 15 home runs and an .845 OPS last season for Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

While back in his home nation of Venezuela, Ramos was kidnapped in November 2011 and rescued after two days. He sidestepped a question about whether he and his family needed special security.

“I feel comfortable living here in the States,” he said. “My family’s happy and I’m not putting too much attention on that because. ... I want to concentrate on my game, on my job.”

Van Wagenen said New York still had the flexibility to add payroll. He made an effort to project confidence, reading from prepared remarks.

“We haven’t been shy and we haven’t been bashful,” he said. “And this action rather than our inaction should demonstrate to the fans that we say what we do and we do what we say.”

Notes: OF Brandon Nimmo attended the news conference. Nimmo, who was in New York for a meeting, said he wasn’t bothered by his name being mentioned as trade bait and didn’t call the Mets to inquire. “There’s so many scenarios that come up in the trade talks that it’s really hard to know what’s fact and what’s fiction,” he said.

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