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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Juan Soto returning to lineup; Joan Adon returning to majors + more

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability from Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday...

Keibert Ruiz’s [Lack of HR] Power [So Far]:

“I think he needs to stay behind the ball better and use his legs,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez earlier this month when asked what catcher Keibert Ruiz needed to do to hit for a bit more power. “And they’re working with him on not jumping out. Like I’ve said, he’s got really good bat-to-ball skills, now we just got to get him to let the ball travel a little bit and let him use his lower-half a little better, and he can do that. So, I know he’s been working on left-handed and right-handed.”

Martinez was talking after Ruiz hit his third home run of the season on July 1st, to go along with 14 doubles he entered play with on Wednesday night in Citizens Bank Park.

Before the second of three with the Philadelphia Phillies last night, Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo too, in his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies, offered up his thoughts on Ruiz’s power numbers this season versus in the minors on the way up.

Ruiz had seven home runs in 94 games and 358 plate appearances in the majors between Los Angeles and Washington last season, after the one-time Dodgers’ prospect, acquired in the trade deadline deal which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA last July 30th, hit 21 over 72 games and 316 PAs at Triple-A between the two organizations in 2021.

“I think he’s capable of hitting somewhere in the range of 15-20 home runs in a season,” Rizzo told the Junkies yesterday.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“I think Keibert’s had a terrific rookie season for us,” he added, “the first time he’s been an everyday catcher at the big league level.

“Defensively, I think he leads the league or is close to leading the league in caught stealings and pickoffs and that type of thing. He’s come a long way in his pitch-framing and pitch-blocking, [and] he’s learning a brand new pitching staff kind of on the fly with — we’ve got 13 pitchers on the roster, right now and with 11 more on the [Injured] List — so he’s gone through a lot of pitching, he’s had to learn a lot of pitching styles and stuff, and I think he’s done a great job.

“I always think that I like position players that hit first, power second. I think that Keibert has got a chance to be a powerful hitter, a two-way player that can hit for power and for average and be great defensively. I think he’s the toughest, or one of the toughest players in the league to strike out. So he’s got great bat-to-ball skills, and I think he’s just got to learn how to leverage that contact into more power, and I think you’ve seen in the past, he’s hit some home runs in the minor leagues, and he’s hit balls this year that you could really see, ‘Wow, this guy is going to come into power later on in his career.’”

[ed. note - “Just to fact check some of that quickly, Ruiz’s 14 CS before last night’s game (in which he added his 15th) were one behind Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto’s 15 (before he too added a CS, his 16th), and amongst MLB players with at least 220 PAs this season, Ruiz’s 25 strikeouts in 254 PAs on the season before last night, were tied for the third lowest total Ks in the league, while his 9.8% K% was 5th lowest.”]

Rizzo said the organization really likes what they’ve seen from Ruiz defensively even if the power isn’t there on the other side of the plate at the big league level right now.

“Yeah, he’s been really good, as advertised defensively,” Rizzo said. “And he’s got a very strong, accurate quick release, accurate arm, and like I said, blocks pitches very well, and he’s taking to this every day catching, which is no joke. It’s very difficult to do, and it’s a very strenuous, a physical position, but it’s also an extremely mentally tough position to play too.”

Soto DHs In CBP:

Juan Soto returned to the lineup last night, after he’d missed two games with a left calf issue (though he did pinch hit late in the finale with Miami in D.C. on Monday), testing it before the second of three with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, and then returning as a DH with Nelson Cruz (illness) out of the lineup for the second game in a row.

“[Soto is] going to DH today, Nellie is still out,” Davey Martinez told reporters in his pregame press conference.

“[Soto] ran today, checked all the boxes that we needed him to check, but it’s nice to get him a DH day, and then hopefully tomorrow he gets to play the field.”

Martinez did say they’d be watching Soto closely, even in limited action as the DH.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

“We’ll definitely monitor him throughout the game,” he explained. “But I told him, ‘Just be smart.’ But he went out there, and he ran well. I talked to the trainers, and they said he looked good. He ran a couple of little turns in the outfield and he said he felt fine. The stop-and-go, for me right now, is probably going to be a little bit of an issue, but I told him to run through the base, and just take it easy.”

As for Cruz?

“As of right now he’s got a stomach virus. He’s a little bit under the weather. So we’ll monitor him, and hopefully throughout the day he’ll feel better.”

Soto went 2 for 3 with a walk in his return to the lineup, scoring one of the three runs for the visitors in a 3-2 win.

Adon Back Up:

Davey Martinez did say before Monday’s game the club hoped to have their starter for the series finale this afternoon picked by Wednesday, with Jackson Tetreault on the IL, and he did announce before last night’s matchup with the Phillies it would be Joan Adon going in the third of three in Citizens Bank Park.

“He’s going to start for us tomorrow,” Martinez told reporters.

“Like I said before, he was throwing the ball well. He came up here, and as you guys remember, and he threw the ball well. So we’ll give him an opportunity to start tomorrow.”

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The fifth-year skipper said he didn’t want his 23-year-old starter thinking about whether it’s a one-and-done, back to Triple-A situation, or if he’s got a shot to stay in the rotation. Just stay focused on the task at hand, he said.

“As I talked to him earlier today, I said, ‘Hey, just focus on the here and now. You’re getting an opportunity tomorrow to pitch again here. Let’s just focus on getting outs, right from the first inning on. And just go out there and have fun.’ The biggest thing is he understands how we feel about him. He’s going to be here. We want him to be here for a long time. But he’s still learning a bunch of different things and every time we’ve seen him, he’s gotten a little better. So we just want him to be consistent.”