Nats' Ramirez Worked Hard To Improve Defense





WASHINGTON — If J.P. Ramirez's mind starts to drift as he plays left field, a voice quickly pops into his head.

"You think of (minor league outfield coordinator Tony Tarasco) whenever innings get long or pitchers start missing their targets and walking guys," said Ramirez.

Ramirez is thankful for the work Tarasco and previous coordinator Cesar Cedeno have put in with him, especially because he knows the defensive side of his game was well behind his hitting ability when he joined the organization in 2008. He signed for a 15th-round-record bonus of $1 million instead of playing at Tulane and working toward becoming an orthopedic doctor.

J.P.'s father, a family practice doctor, saw that his son was a bit of a baseball prodigy. Though John Ramirez was more into track and football growing up, he could tell J.P. could hit from a young age. He checked out every book on hitting that he could find, and the lefthanded-swinging J.P. soaked it all in.

However, defense has been more of an acquired taste for the 21-year-old from New Braunfels, Texas.

"Until I played professionally, I didn't really know how important it was," Ramirez said. "There's a whole lot more action out there. I feel like I've improved tremendously, like it's part of my game now."

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Ramirez is in a Potomac outfield that includes fellow prospects Eury Perez in center field and Destin Hood in right. Those three also were together at low Class A Hagerstown in 2010, when Ramirez hit .296/.341/.470 in a full season.

"We all have to play up to the same level, and we stay on each other and help each other out," Ramirez said.

CAPITAL GAINS

• The organization was mourning the death of Yewri Guillen, an 18-year-old shortstop who contracted bacterial meningitis. According to the Associated Press, the Nationals paid for Guillen's funeral and donated money to the family. The Nationals were trying to figure out how Guillen, who had been living at the team's academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, contracted the disease. None of his teammates was believed to be at risk.

• Double-A Harrisburg catcher Derek Norris went on the seven-day disabled list with an injured ankle but was expected to make a quick return. In 2010, injuries limited him to 94 games.