WASHINGTON – The offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, but Washington manager Davey Martinez is high on his young catcher.
Keibert Ruiz, 23, acquired in a trade with the Dodgers last July, was hitting .264 with no homers and four RBIs going into Tuesday night’s series opener against the Miami Marlins here at Nationals Park.
But Martinez feels that if the native of Venezuela can do damage to pitches up in the zone he can be a big part of the Washington offense.
Ruiz hit sixth in the lineup on Tuesday as the Nationals faced starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara, who entered with an ERA of 1.86.
“He has unbelievable bat-to-ball skills,” Martinez said of Ruiz, who had his sixth two-hit game of the year Sunday, which was tied for sixth in the league.
“We’re getting him to try not to chase down below the zone.”
The catcher had just six strikeouts in his first 55 at-bats this year and that 10.9 percent strikeout rate ranked third in the National League in games through Monday.
Martinez said that Ruiz can sometimes get too amped up with runners in scoring position.
“He is a young guy who is very aggressive,” Martinez said before Tuesday’s game.
Since joining the Nationals last August he had fanned just 6.9 percent of his at-bats through Monday and that led the National League with a minimum of 140 plate appearances.
The Nationals got Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray – who started Tuesday – in the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers last July.
Ruiz first reported to Triple-A Rochester, where he worked with manager Matt LeCroy – a former catcher with the Twins and Nationals.
Ruiz then came to the Nationals in August and hit .284 in 23 games with two homers and three doubles.
He is the catcher of the future for Washington, which saw its farm system take a hit the past few years after pieces were traded for veterans that aided the World Series team in 2019.
The other catcher on the Major League roster going into the series this week is Riley Adams, a native of California who will 26 in July.
Ruiz turns 24 in July.
In his first at-bat Tuesday, he lined a single to right field with one out and no one on base in the last of the second. But he was erased on a double play as the game remained scoreless after two innings.
The other players the Nationals got in the trade for Scherzer and Turner were pitcher Gerardo Carrillo and outfielder Donovan Casey.
Carrillo recently went on the 7-day Injured List with Double-A Harrisburg while Casey was hitting .243 for Triple-A Rochester through Monday.