Roster Decisions With Keibert Ruiz Up:
As several reporters noted after the Washington Nationals announced on Sunday morning that they would be calling up top prospect Keibert Ruiz to make his debut with the club in the nation’s capital today, breaking the news like they did put some of the other 26 players on the big league roster on notice that someone would likely be sent down to make room for the switch-hitting catcher to join the club.
Riley Adams, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in return for reliever Brad Hand in one of the deals GM Mike Rizzo made during the Nationals’ fire sale at the trade deadline, and the club’s homegrown catcher, Tres Barrera, have been handling the catching duties with Alex Avila injured, René Rivera DFA’d, and Yan Gomes traded to Oakland in another deadline deal, but is one of them going to be moved out to make room for Ruiz?
“They understand that hey, you got to take care of the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days will take care of themselves,” Davey Martinez said when the skipper spoke on a Zoom call with reporters on Sunday morning, and was asked how announcing it like the team did might affect his players. “Focus on the game today, let’s try to go 1-0 today.
“Obviously, something is going to happen after the game, but they need to focus on trying to play today, and win a game today, and that’s their focus today.”
There is a possibility, the fourth-year skipper said, that the Nationals keep three catchers on the roster, with rosters expanding from 26 to 28 on September 1st as well. As of the time he spoke to reporters on Sunday, however, Martinez wasn’t ready to announce the move that’s coming.
“We haven’t — I’m going to sit down, I haven’t talked to [GM Mike] Rizzo today, but we’ll sit down and start talking about some things, but it’s a possibility we’ll carry three, we haven’t really decided yet.”
Did he or anyone else with the team talk to Adams and Barrera to prepare them for Ruiz’s arrival and a potential corresponding move?
“I’ll talk to both of them either today or tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.”
As of the time he spoke on another Zoom call following the Nationals’ loss to the Mets in the series finale in Citi Field, Martinez still didn’t have a move to announce.
“No, we’re still — we won’t know nothing till tomorrow,” he said.
Mr. Ruiz; Meet Mr. Blanco:
In announcing that the Nationals were bringing Keibert Ruiz up to start tonight and work with his fellow former Dodgers’ prospect Josiah Gray against the Phillies, Davey Martinez said that the 23-year-old catcher was traveling to D.C. while the club finished up a three-game set with the New York Mets in Citi Field.
The Nationals want to get Ruiz to the nation’s capital so he’s ready to start working with their bullpen coach, and former major league catcher, Henry Blanco.
“He’s going to fly in some time today to get him in there,” Martinez said on Sunday. “So I don’t know his schedule or what’s going on, but I’m assuming we’ll get him in so he can get a good night’s sleep and we’ll get him tomorrow, get him some batting practice, obviously he’s going to meet Henry. So, yeah, because Henry is going to work with him, and [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] and [Assistant Hitting Coach Pat Roessler] will get him going.”
Blanco, who turned 50 on Sunday, played 16 seasons in the majors between 1997-2013, and he’s charged with helping the Nationals’ catchers improve their games, while also handing his duties as the club’s bullpen coach. Martinez was asked what Blanco’s strengths are in his role(s)?
“Henry’s strength is everything about catching,” the manager said. “The guy — I played against him, he’s one of the best on calling games, on blocking balls, on throwing people out. I’ve seen him do it all and he teaches it really well, so as you can see, a lot of our catchers are getting better.
“Like last night, I watched some of Riley [Adams’] throws to second base, they were really good, and he had a quick release, a lot quicker than we saw in the past, but he’s been working with Henry on his footwork, on his throwing mechanics, on getting his arm up, all that stuff, so he’s been good. Henry understands what it takes. For him, Henry was all about catching, that came first, and he makes it a priority with our catchers.”
Keibert Ruiz had a 18% caught stealing percentage in the Dodgers’ system before the trade, and he was at 24% with Rochester before he was called up, throwing out 11 of 54 runners in 2021 overall (20%), which is something Martinez said he’ll work on with Blanco.
“I think you got to remember there’s two part of throwing guys out,” Martinez added.
“There’s pitchers holding runners on,” he explained, “and then we’ll take a look at what he’s doing, you know, so that’s something that Henry, he’s already looked at, he’s studied it, and he’s going to work with him on his release, getting a little bit quicker with his feet, but you know you got to be able to hold runners as pitchers as well.”
Generally speaking, however, Martinez said, the club is comfortable with Ruiz’s arm.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we looked at all this stuff,” he said, “and he’s going to be fine, he really is, and like I said, I want to get eyes on him and see him play and watch his antics, watch everything that we can’t really see, sit and watch him in the dugout and communicate with him, so I’m excited about that.”
Closer Gets Vote Of Confidence:
Before earning a save on Friday night, Kyle Finnegan’s last outing in Citi Field was a brief appearance on August 12th in which he gave up a walk-off home run by Pete Alonso. So, Finnegan was happy to exorcise his Citi Field demons with a scoreless inning of work in what ended up a 2-1 win.
“Last time I stepped on that mound it didn’t go so well for me, so I really wanted that one,” the Nationals’ closer said.
The ability to put rough outings behind you and go back out and do your job is a quality closers need to have of course, and Finnegan’s manager said he’s liked what he’s seen throughout the right-hander’s time with the team.
“Here’s a guy who wears everything on his sleeve, he really does,” Martinez said from Citi Field on Sunday.
“He wants to get better every day,” the skipper added. “He knows that I’m not going to shy away from him because he had a bad outing here last time, so he wanted to go out there and prove that he could pitch here in this environment, and he did that.”
Finnegan walked the first batter he faced, then Luis García made a diving play and slick, toss/roll to second to get the first out, before turning a game-ending 4-3 double play on another grounder to end it.
“I know [Finnegan] didn’t want to walk the first guy, but it worked out for him and I’m proud of him for stepping back on the mound in a tough situation too,” Martinez said.
“it doesn’t get any tougher, you come in the game, in a one-run game, and you have to face the middle of the lineup, and do what he did. He got a ground ball and then he got a double play ball, so it was a good night for him. So, I got all the confidence in the world in Finnegan and he knows that, and he knows I’m going to put him in and he takes the ball, and tries to do the best he can to get three quick outs.”