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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Keibert Ruiz after HBP to face; Kyle McGowin’s elbow, Will Harris rehabbing

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Sunday in Pittsburgh...

Good News For Keibert Ruiz:

The Washington Nationals’ top prospect, catcher Keibert Ruiz, took a 95 MPH fastball from Pittsburgh Pirates’ righty Kyle Keller to the face in Saturday night’s game, though it looked like it really did catch a lot of ear flap, while definitely catching a good deal of jaw/cheek as well, but a few inches either way could have been devastating.

Ruiz’s manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters after Saturday’s loss that the 23-year-old backstop went for X-rays that came up clean.

“X-rays were negative,” Martinez said. “He’s got a slight headache, which I’m glad that’s all he has, but he said he feels fine, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Before Sunday’s series finale, the fourth-year skipper provided an update on the backstop.

“He’s clear,” the manager said. “I talked to him this morning. He’s a bit sore. He’s going to go through his routine later on. He’s got an icepack on his face right now, but he said he feels fine.”

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The next step, will be getting Ruiz back up at the plate, when he’s ready, so he can get over any lingering effects of being hit in the face like he was.

“Just getting back in the box and seeing that first pitch inside,” is big, Martinez said.

“He understands the game, he’s a catcher, so ... but I told him I said, ‘We got to get you back in there and be ready to hit.’

“I assume— well, I’m not going to assume anything — because he’s a tough kid — but he’s going to go in there and battle, but usually that first at bat back after getting hit like that, it’s pretty scary, because your mind is just — anything that comes in, you kind of want to jump out of the way, but he understands the game, but he knows he has to stay in there.’

Knowing that he was okay, it seemed more appropriate to ask about a questionable play in Saturday’s game, when Ruiz received a throw home from Juan Soto in right and drifted too far to the left of home plate and into the path of Pirates’ infielder Yoshi Tsutsugo, who was originally called out, but ruled safe upon review, when it was determined Ruiz did not give the runner path to the dish.

What did his manager see on the play, and what does he want Ruiz to do differently in the next bang-bang play at home plate?

“We talked to him, [Henry Blanco] talked to him as well,” Martinez said, with Blanco the former big league catcher and the club’s current bullpen and unofficial catching coach.

Ruiz, of course, came over to the Nationals from the Dodgers as one of the four players acquired in the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner deal at the deadline, so the Nats’ skipper didn’t know where the catcher was taught to handle things the way he did, or if was a reaction on that particular play..

“[Ruiz] stood behind the plate,” the manager explained, “which — we’re not sure why he did it. I know Henry was going to talk to him again today. I don’t know if it’s he’s been taught that — that’s the way they receive the ball in LA, but we teach getting in front of the plate on a line to receive the ball a lot earlier, so he can make the tag, but I talked to him yesterday, and I just told him that he needs to get in front of the plate in a situation like that.

“He thought — to him, he thought he caught the ball early enough that it really didn’t matter, but I told him, I said, you have to give the runner a lane no matter what, and he understood, so hopefully the next time it happens, he’s in front of the plate.”

Bullpen Injury Updates:

Kyle McGowin landed on the 10-Day IL back on July 11th with a strained right biceps, and the right-handed reliever was off the mound in the majors until August 24th, two days after he was reinstated from the Injured List. McGowin made five appearances out of the pen upon returning, giving up two hits and one run in 4 1⁄3 innings pitched, but the 29-year-old right-hander felt something was off during a throwing session, and a subsequent MRI on his elbow revealed a UCL sprain which sent him back to the IL and off to get a second opinion on what the next step will be. No decision had been reached as of Sunday morning...

“Nothing yet,” Martinez said. “We haven’t heard yet. I know he went and visited the doctor, we’re waiting to hear back from what was discussed. We haven’t heard anything yet.”

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, veteran reliever Will Harris, whose second season in D.C. ended when he had to have surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome back in early June, has been back with the team and doing what he can to contribute in some way while he rehabs and builds for a potential return in 2022.

“He’s throwing,” Martinez said on Sunday. “Throwing very light, but he’s throwing again. I think he threw like 50 feet the other day, but he feels good, so he’s going to continue to do his throwing progression, and then we’ll see. The good thing for us is he’s able to throw, and this way when the winter time comes, he’ll be — hopefully he’ll be a full-go and ready to go so we get him back in Spring Training ready to go.”

For now, Harris is just making himself available to the team’s younger players, who are trying to make a name for themselves in the majors.

“He’s been great,” the manager said. “Talking to all the young relief pitchers. But it’s nice to have him around. It really is. I mean, like you said, he’s a veteran guy. He’s been doing this for a long time, so not only does he get his work in, but he’s watching and talking to guys about routines and how to get better, so it’s good to have him around.”

Baldonado Just Happy To Be Here:

Alberto Baldonado, 28, earned a call to the majors for the first time after going (6-1) with a 2.88 ERA, nine walks, and 47 strikeouts in 34 appearances, between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester in the Nationals’ system after he signed with Washington over the winter.

Mexico v Panama - Serie del Caribe 2021 Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images

Through his first six appearances for the Nationals, the left-hander had a 3.38 ERA, a 2.60 FIP, three walks, and six Ks in 5 13 IP heading into the series finale in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, and, a reporter noted on Sunday morning, he’s been smiling pretty much the whole time.

“Oh, man, he’s worked so hard to get to the big leagues,” Martinez said, “and he’s been a lot of fun. And here’s a guy where he wants to take the ball any time you ask him. He doesn’t complain about anything. He’s just one of those guys who’s happy to be here, and he’s been a great teammate. I mean, he really has. You see him, he’s always talking to — not just the pitchers — but the regular guys, patting them on the back, ‘Hey, way to go, nice going, don’t worry about it,’ but he’s been a joy to have around so far.