WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman announced that catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos will split the first nine games of the season, with Ramos slowly becoming the No. 1 catcher.

Riggleman had a conversation with Rodriguez on Friday, when the latter was told of the team's plan. At first, Riggleman assumed Rodriguez would have a tough transition from being a starting catcher to becoming a bench player. To Riggleman's surprise, Rodriguez took the news well and said he wants to stay with the Nationals beyond 2011.

Rodriguez wants to play three or four more years in the big leagues and would like to collect career hit No. 3,000. Rodriguez needs 181 hits to reach that milestone.

"My reaction was fine," Rodriguez said. "I don't have any problems. I know [Ramos] is a great player. He is the future of the ballclub and I'm here to work with him. I don't have any problem with that.

"I played a lot of games. I feel like I want to contribute to the ballclub. ... I just want to win some games. We have a great team. We have a nice group of guys. They are ready to win ballgames and that is the most important."

Ramos was impressive during Spring Training, hitting .354 with a homer and two RBIs.

"Pudge completely understands that we have to develop Ramos' game," Riggleman said. "He is a young guy. We don't want to break him in behind the plate in minimal games. There is going to be a lot of days where Ramos is out there. Pudge is completely on board with it. Pudge wants to be a National."

The plan for Ramos being the No. 1 option behind the plate has been in the works for weeks. The club believed since early Spring Training that Ramos was ready to play every day.

Ramos sometimes wondered if he would get the chance to play in the big leagues. He signed with the Twins as a free agent in 2004, but opportunities in Minnesota were limited as the team had a top-notch catcher in Joe Mauer.

But when Ramos received the news on July 29 of last year that he and pitcher Joe Testa were traded to the Nationals for reliever Matt Capps, Ramos was excited. Ramos had a feeling that he would get a chance to play. Once the deal was done, Ramos was proclaimed Washington's catcher of the future. Ramos had a brief stint in the big leagues with Washington, going 14-for-54 (.269) with a homer and four RBIs.

"We have great expectation for Ramos," Riggleman said. "He is a young hitter that needs some action."

Ramos said that he is happy about the opportunity and expects to learn more about the art of catching from Rodriguez.

"I'm very excited for this opportunity," he said. "I was waiting for it. I will learn from the best. [Rodriguez] told me he was going to teach me a lot. I'm going to learn from him. I will try to do the best I can."

Club sticking with Desmond in leadoff spot

WASHINGTON -- Although Ian Desmond went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the home opener against the Braves, the Nationals plan to remain patient with their shortstop at the leadoff spot.

However, if Desmond doesn't produce within the next week or so, the Nats plan to use Danny Espinosa at the top spot.

Espinosa has experience as a leadoff hitter. Last year he was 11-for-73 (.151) with three home runs and five RBIs hitting first.