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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Keibert Ruiz not striking out a whole lot; Luis García & that throwing error + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability in Coors Field...

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In his first eight games (six starts) with the Washington Nationals after he was called up in late August, 23-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz went 3 for 28 (.107/.167/.107) with all three of his hits singles, two walks, and three Ks in 30 plate appearances, but in the last 11 games, before last night’s matchup with the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field, Ruiz was 17 for 42 at the plate (.405/.457/.619) with three doubles, two home runs, two walks, and just one K in 46 PAs. He actually had just one strikeout in his last 56 PAs before last night’s game.

In the 56, Ruiz was hitting .340, with a .411 OBP and .520 SLG, so it’s not like he’s swinging at bad pitches and making outs either, he’s making solid contact, and starting to hit for power, as he did in the minors.

So what does his manager make of the bat-to-ball skills and lack of Ks?

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“He’s another one of our young kids that has great bat-to-ball skills,” Davey Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. “Usually hits the ball hard when it’s in the zone, once again he’s one of the guys where we don’t want to take away his aggressiveness, yet we want him to swing at balls in the strike zone and take his walks, and I think he’s going to be really, really good when he starts doing that, and I think that’s where you’re going to see the power come from, when he allows himself to get a ball in the zone and really square one up.”

With the work he’s done getting to know the Nationals’ pitchers, while picking things up at the plate, the club will patiently wait for Ruiz to really start hitting for power in the majors.

“But he’s done awesome,” Martinez said. “And I’m watching him now and every day he seems to grow more and more.

“The walk yesterday we talked about, the big walk yesterday,” a bases-loaded free pass by the catcher that forced in the club’s first run, “that was a great at-bat, for a young guy like that to battle like that, and lay off a really close pitch like he did, that’s a great sign.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him get 500-600 plate appearances and see what he can do.”

Finnegan Mixes It Up:

Kyle Finnegan got the ball in the eighth on Monday night in Coors Field, and in addition to appearing an inning earlier than he usually does these days, the hard-throwing right-hander mixed up his pitch selection a bit, throwing 20 pitches total, nine sliders (45%), eight splitters (40%), and three sinkers (15%), when he’s usually a 70% sinker pitcher. So was that by design, or was there something going on with the reliever?

“That’s by design,” Davey Martinez told reporters after Finnegan worked around a single and a walk for a scoreless frame.

“We talked to him a lot about not just being heavy, heavy fastball,” the manager explained.

“Honestly, we didn’t want him to throw that many offspeed pitches, but we want him to be conscious that he does have a good splitter, he does have a good slider, he needs to use it more.

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

“And it was effective tonight, I thought he did well, but I still don’t want him to shy away from his fastball, his fastball is really good.”

Once Finnegan was done with the eighth, Tanner Rainey got the ball in the ninth with a 5-3 lead, and gave up a two-out walk and an RBI double, before he locked down the save.

“He was good,” Martinez said of Rainey’s work. “My biggest thing is just pounding the strike zone, throwing strikes. Hey, look, those guys are pretty good hitters, but you know what, he got three big outs in a closer role, and that’s a great sign for us.”

Rainey averaged 97.4 MPH with his fastball, which he threw for 12 of 17 pitches, and he got up to 98.1 MPH with the heater, which is a good sign for a pitcher whose velo was down in the first few months this season after his 2020 campaign ended with an injury and he dealt with a number of injury and health issues this season.

“It definitely feels good to have it back,” Rainey said of the increased velocity, “but being in the zone is obviously a lot more important. 98 [MPH] and two feet outside does no good for anybody really, so everything has picked up and obviously the body feeling much better now helps with the velo, but as long as I can repeat the delivery and stay around the zone and in the zone when I need to be, I’d much rather have that than the 98s on the board.”

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

His goal over the last week, Rainey said, after working his way back to the majors, is to just stay healthy and finish strong.

“Finish out strong and healthy, go into the offseason completely healthy,” he said. “Have a normal offseason.

“Obviously, last year I finished up on the [IL] with a flexor strain, so offseason was a little different, there was some rehab involved early. So throwing program was a little different than what I’m used to, so the big key now is finish off strong and healthy, and go into a normal offseason.”

Luis Still Learning:

Davey Martinez wrapped up some pregame comments about infielder Luis García on Monday by noting that the 21-year-old second baseman obviously remains a work in progress, though he’s had a nice run at the end of the season after coming up to play every day in late July.

It’s a work in progress on both ends for García, and he made an error in the fifth inning on Monday that earned him a friendly talking-to from bench and infield coach Tim Bogar.

Garcia fielded a grounder from Sam Hilliard in the first at-bat of the Rockies’ half of the fifth, stood up straight, waited a beat, then threw one way wide of Josh Bell at first base, gifting a runner to the home team in a tightly-contested game.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

How did his manager address the play? What was the message for García?

“I’m going to keep that message to myself,” Martinez said with a laugh.

“It wasn’t a very good one, but after we settled down we talked about it and as you can see, the last throw he made [for the final out of the game], he threw a changeup to Josh Bell, so it’s something that we’ve got to work on with him.”