Roster Move To Make Room For Keibert Ruiz:
As of Sunday night, Davey Martinez didn’t have, or wasn’t willing to share, a roster move to make room for debuting prospect Keibert Ruiz, whose call-up to the big leagues with their club was announced before the Washington Nationals’ series finale in New York’s Citi Field on Sunday afternoon. Would they keep both Tres Barrera and Riley Adams on the roster in the majors and carry three catchers, or would one of the backstops handling the catching duties for the club be optioned out?
“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,” Martinez said before the game.
“We’re still — we won’t know nothing till tomorrow,” he said afterwards.
On Monday afternoon, the move was officially announced. Barrera was optioned to Triple-A so he could play every day after doing the bulk of the catching in recent weeks. He has the second-most starts behind the plate for the team, behind only Yan Gomes this season.
“We wanted Tres to continue to go down there and play every day,” Martinez said in his pre-game Zoom call with reporters on Monday.
“Keibert is going to get a chance to play here every day, so we wanted Tres to continue to play down there every day. He’s done well. He’s done really well, so he’s going to go down there and get a chance to play every day.”
Ruiz Room For Growth:
Keibert Ruiz came to D.C. with a reputation as a polished hitter, with work to do defensively, but his manager, Davey Martinez, said before Ruiz’s debut with the Nationals last night, that he’d heard good things about how the backstop handles both sides of his game at Triple-A in the Nationals’ system.
“What’s good about him,” Martinez said, “from what I’ve heard about him, especially from the guys in [Triple-A] Rochester, is that he — once the inning is over, he becomes a hitter, and he focuses on hitting, and once our offense is done, he goes out and he’s back to defending and calling pitches, and watching and learning — like looking at who’s coming up and knowing what he wants to do. So, I’m curious to see how he does here with that stuff as well.”
“I told him, ‘I don’t want you to change anything. I want you to continue to do what you do,’” Martinez continued. “I said, ‘I heard that you have a pretty good routine, stick to your routine. If we can help you any way, if we see something where we feel like we can help, we’ll talk to you about it and get your thoughts on it.”
Ruiz offered his own thoughts on where there was room for improvement in his own game when he spoke on a Zoom call on Monday afternoon.
“Yeah, I want to keep getting better with my game-calling,” the 23-year-old backstop said, “... with the pitchers, just get to know the pitchers, get them to trust me behind the plate, and help the pitchers a lot, and whatever I can do to help the team win.”
He also talked about what the organization had him working on once he came over from LA in the trade deadline deal.
“I was working on everything, framing, I think that’s big to help the pitchers get the strikes, game-calling too, good communication with the pitcher,” he said, “... try to help them out behind the plate, and whatever they want me to do to help the team win, that’s my primary [goal].”
As for his offensive game? The Nationals noted before he made his debut that Ruiz, while in the minors since 2019, had more walks than Ks.
Between the Dodgers and Nationals’ systems this season, Ruiz struck out in just 33 of 316 plate appearances.
So where does the plate discipline and ability to make contact/avoid strikeouts come from?
“In the minor leagues I always have that, but I don’t try to do too much. Before I was trying to like — swing at pitches close to the strike zone. Right now I’m just trying to get my pitch early in the count. I don’t care if I strike out, but if I get my pitch early in the count, that’s a good thing, that’s my plan right now, get a good pitch early, and with two strikes just fight, don’t get weak contact early.”
Ruiz has also picked up the power this season as well, with 21 home runs in 72 games this season, after he hit 28 total in his previous five seasons in the minors.
“Some adjustments with the swing,” he said when asked what’s changed.
“Lower half. I worked in the offseason too with my mechanics, just getting a little bit taller, and I think that helps too, the weight room, more swings and keep getting better.”
Riley Adams Remains:
Riley Adams, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in return for Brad Hand at the deadline, has been sharing catching duties with Tres Barrera, but with Keibert Ruiz expected to get the bulk of the starts down the stretch, Davey Martinez said he has thought about maybe trying the backstop at first base in case they need him to play there or want to get him at bats.
“We’re going to work with him at first base a little bit, but you know, he will catch,” Martinez said.
“He will catch once or twice a week, for sure, but I actually want him to learn how to play a different position, which will probably be first base.”
Adams has actually played one game at first in the Cape Cod League and one game in the minors, but Martinez was unaware of that history when he was asked if the catcher had any sort of experience in the field. He’s also played one game in left, apparently.
“To my knowledge, no, but the other day he said he could play left field, and so that was kind of interesting,” Martinez said.
“He’s a really good athlete, for a big guy he moves around pretty well, so I’m just going to talk to him and kind of feel like where he feels like he’s comfortable. I already talked to him a little about playing some first base. He feels comfortable playing left field we might do that as well, but his primary position as I told him, is catching. So far I talked to [bullpen coach and former big league catcher] Henry [Blanco] a lot about him and we feel like he can catch, and he does well back there, and he’s a student of the game, he understands the catching aspect of it, he understands how to call games, he’s done well calling games, so we definitely don’t want to deter from that, so he needs to understand, and I talked to him about it, that he is a catcher first. This is only — we want to do this for kind of in-game stuff. If we have to make a move and we know that he can play another position, it helps us out a lot.”