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Washington Nationals news & notes: Keibert Ruiz hospital trip; Josiah Gray vs the Cards + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability on Thursday...

Keibert Ruiz Visits Hospital in St. Louis:

Keibert Ruiz took a foul ball off of the unmentionables in the second inning of yesterday’s game, and the 24-year-old catcher was in obvious pain, but he stayed in the game, and he lasted until the bottom of the sixth.

Ruiz was replaced by backup Riley Adams before the home-half of the inning, and after the game, an 11-6 win for Washington, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters the bad news.

“He’s at the hospital right now. He’s getting checked on, we’re still waiting to hear. So we’ll know hopefully something here fairly soon,” the manager said.

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

At the time he spoke, Martinez was trying to hold things up before the trip to Philadelphia for this weekend’s three-game set in Citizens Bank Park.

“I’m going to hold the bus and wait before we leave,” Martinez said, “if everything turns out to be okay, I want to take him with us, I don’t want to leave him here, so we’ll wait and wait for him.”

What exactly happened which concerned them enough to send Ruiz to the hospital?

“Honestly, his testicles were swollen. And we wanted to make sure he got it checked out.”

Strasdate; Upburg; Strasburg Update:

Back on August 27th, Davey Martinez was asked if there was any kind of update on Stephen Strasburg, Washington’s 34-year-old, 2009 No. 1 overall pick, who’d returned from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome to make one start back on June 9th, only to suffer a setback in the aftermath of his return to the mound. He ended up back on the IL days later, and not a whole lot has been said about his status since.

“Nothing is new on Strasburg. Thanks for asking,” Martinez said (without any hint of sarcasm though it kind of reads like it) back in late August.

“Stephen is still the same. He’s trying go get better, trying to get pain free, so it’s going to take some time,” Martinez said on August 16th, two-plus months after Strasburg ended up back on the IL.

Washington Nationals v. Miami Marlins Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

8/3/22: “Strasburg is still status quo. He’s not doing anything, he’s just trying to build up some strength.”

7/22/22: “We’re still waiting on Strasburg. I know he went to go see some other doctors, we’re waiting to hear back.”

That’s all we’ve heard from Martinez on Strasburg since mid-July-ish. GM Mike Rizzo gave a brief update on the 2019 World Series MVP on Wednesday morning.

“Stras is still healing the injury that he had last,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies.

“And you know the thoracic outlet surgery, and the byproducts of that — so once he’s fully healed he’ll start his return to the mound progression and his throwing program, and we’ll take it from there.”

Good Times:

“I think it’s been pretty clear to the people who are watching the games that we’re playing cleaner baseball,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning, after the Nats split the first two of four with the Cards in St. Louis (and before they blew a 5-1 lead in the 9th later that night).

Going into the 3rd of 4 with the Cardinals, the Nationals had won 6 of 9, including 2 of 3 from the spiraling, NL East division leading, New York Mets.

“Obviously infield defense has been a huge upgrade for us, and I think it’s having a positive impact on our starting pitching. I think you can see the numbers since [CJ] Abrams became our shortstop every day and we moved Luis [García] to second base, [have] improved dramatically and I think that’s helped the pitchers and helped us win more games.”

Rizzo also talked excitedly about the glimpse of their future everyone is getting with the 21-year-old Abrams, 22-year-old García, 24-year-old Keibert Ruiz, and 25-year-old Victor Robles competing together at the major league level.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

“I always say, these guys would be college juniors if they were in the draft this year,” Rizzo said of Abrams and García in particular, “and they’re already playing big-time games in the big leagues, so [Abrams has] impressed me with his work ethic and the way he gets after it, and [coaches] Tim Bogar and Gary DiSarcina are doing a great job with not only CJ, but with Luis at second base, and [Ildemaro] Vargas has given us a big boost defensively at third, and they work extremely hard with [Luke] Voit and [Joey] Meneses at first base, so a tip of the cap to those guys who are out there at 1:00 pounding fungos and going over footwork and that type of thing with those guys.

“It’s an exciting time. When you’re strong up the middle and young up the middle, which I think we’re going to be, it gives you a chance, and with Ruiz and Abrams and García in the middle of the infield, and Robles and [Lane] Thomas and those type of guys in center field, it gives you a strong, athletic, defensive-minded up the middle, and I think that’s important, then you filter in some of those good young pitchers that are coming, with [MacKenzie] Gore and [Cade] Cavalli, and [Josiah] Gray who’s already there, and several other guys sprinkled in there, I think you see what we’re trying to accomplish and where we’re going.

“I think where we’re going is very, very positive, and it’s going to be fun to watch next year and throughout.”

Meneses Part of the Future?:

Yes, it’s strange to think of a 30-year-old rookie on a rebooting ballclub as part of the future in D.C., but he, as GM Mike Rizzo noted on Wednesday, is under team control for years now, and he’s producing (in a small sample size) so the idea is not too far-fetched to consider for the organization.

“He’s a 0+ major league service time guy,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies of Meneses, who made his MLB debut on August 2nd (after 10 minor league seasons and years of international play), and had a .339/.368/.567 line, eight doubles, and seven homers over a total of 31 games and 133 plate appearances going into the finale in St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon, with hits in 27 of 31 games.

“We have him for the next six seasons under his big league control, so he’s like any control guy, he’s a 0+ major league service guy, so we control him for the next six years,” Rizzo told the Junkies.

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

As the GM in D.C. attempted to qualify, he said Meneses is already part of the future ... now?

“I think that the future is now,” Rizzo said. “The future is next year. We’re certainly — our plan is to win in the very near future. So we’re going to put our best 26 out there, and depending on what we do in the offseason — I think that some people kind of looked sideways at us when we said that Lane Thomas was a piece of the future — we always say the next championship-caliber club, a guy like Lane Thomas should be a part of it, because he’s a good hitter specifically against left-handed pitching, he’s really coming around against right-handed pitching, he can play good defense, and he runs the bases well, he’s really fast.

“That’s a piece of a championship-caliber club. It doesn’t mean you have to hit third or fourth in the lineup to be a piece of it, you know what I mean.

“Meneses could definitely be a part of a future team.”

Gray vs the Cards:

Josiah Gray had 13 days between his August 20th start against San Diego’s Padres (5 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 1 ER), and his September 2nd start against New York’s Mets (5 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 6 ER), but his manager was not too concerned about the time off for the 24-year-old starter, who’s had his outings/innings limited down the stretch as the club tries to get him through the season without going too far past his previous workloads.

“I just want to watch — go out there, first inning is going to be important for him,” Martinez told reporters before Gray’s outing.

“I think he’s going to feel strong, so, we’ll see how he does the first inning, but for him it’s all about his mechanics and throwing strikes, and when he is around the strike zone, he’s pretty good, so he’s got to understand these guys they don’t chase much, he’s got to be in the strike zone, and if he does that he’ll do well.”

Gray worked around a double and a walk in a 21-pitch first in Citi Field, but gave up a leadoff single and a one-out, two-run home run in the home-half of the second, two walks, one of them intentional, a double, and a run on a sac fly in the fourth, and a leadoff home run, a walk, and one last single in the sixth, before he was replaced on the mound and two runners left on ended up scoring as well for the 5th and 6th runs off the Nationals’ starter.

“The ball was coming out good, his slider was good, we noticed that he was throwing a lot of breaking pitches,” Martinez noted in his post game presser following a 7-3 loss in NY.

“We told him to throw some more fastballs, your fastball is electric today. He started doing that towards the middle of the third, fourth inning, and was good, so he started pitching.”

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

“Obviously, I enjoyed pitching back here in New York and getting a little bit of rest,” Gray, the New Rochelle, NY born-and-raised righty said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“The results didn’t go my way, but I felt really good. It was a lot of fun to pitch here in New York.”

Going up against the Cardinals in the series finale in St. Louis yesterday, Gray had a leadoff walk come around to score on a one-out RBI single in the first, then gave up a one-out walk, and two-run home run in the bottom of the second. The walks were Gray’s 58th and 59th in 130 13 IP to that point (4.07 BB/9), and the home run was the 35th he’s given up, more than any other major league starter (for 2.42 HR/9, which was the highest HR/9 for any pitcher with at least 120 IP on the year).

Molina got Gray again in the fourth, a half-inning after the Nationals rallied for a 4-3 lead. He got hold of a 3-2 slider and ended a nine-pitch at-bat with a game-tying home run to left, 4-4. A single, double, and walk followed, and that was it for the starter, who left with the bases loaded with Cardinals, but Mason Thompson took over and got two outs without allowing a run to score, leaving it 4-4 after four.

The Nationals scored a run in the sixth, however, 5-4, and added two more in the seventh, 7-4, then scored four in the ninth to earn a split of the four-game set in Busch Stadium with an 11-6 win.

“We struggled in the first couple innings, Josiah just couldn’t find the plate,” Davey Martinez told reporters in his post-game press conference from Busch Stadium. “But the boys hung in there, we scored some funs. I can’t say enough about how these guys are playing. I said these guys always play hard for 27 outs. Today’s the perfect example of them just getting after it again, and going out there and scoring a bunch of runs and playing good baseball.”