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Washington Nationals news & notes: Keibert Ruiz signs long-term extension; looking to be leader in D.C.

More from Keibert Ruiz’s extension press conference.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals Workouts Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Keibert Ruiz talked in the press conference on Saturday announcing his 8-year, reportedly $50M extension with the Washington Nationals, about looking forward to working with all the other young Nats the organization has assembled as they try to build the next championship-caliber team in the nation’s capital.

“I’m really excited to stay here for a long time,” Ruiz, 24, told reporters.

“I feel like we’ve got a good group. All these guys, all these young guys, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, and all the guys coming up from the minor leagues too, so I feel like I got to take responsibility now and I got to do my job to help this team win.”

The idea of taking responsibility and becoming a leader in D.C. was a theme the catcher returned to throughout the presser in West Palm Beach, FL’s FITTEAM Ballpark.

“Especially with my position, catcher,” he explained, “this is a young group, we got a couple veterans too, and I just want to do my best to help this team win, and I will do whatever I’ve got to do.”

“The day we met,” Ruiz’s manager, Davey Martinez, said of the catcher the Nats acquired in the 2021 deal which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the LA Dodgers at the trade deadline, “the first words that came out of his mouth were: ‘I’m here to work. I’m here to get better. Teach me how to get better. That’s all we can ask from players. So he’s been great. He really has. And I know his teammates look up to him, I know we look up to him. I feel sorry for him, because he’s got to work with Henry [Blanco] for a long time.”

Blanco, of course, is the Catching and Strategy coach for Washington, tasked with working to help develop Ruiz and the other relatively young catchers in the organization like Riley Adams and Israel Pineda.

Ruiz thanked all his coaches for helping him get to the point where the Nationals wanted to sign him to a long-term deal.

“I’m very grateful to this team,” he said, “... all the people, the coaching staff, and the front office for making this happen.”

Asked about the risks of signing a relatively unproven young catcher to a long-term deal at this point in his development, GM Mike Rizzo said Ruiz is taking a risk as well, which is how deals like this one work.

“We thought long and hard about it and these deals get done — these deals get done — I think the best deals you can do are [when] both sides are a little uneasy about it, you know what I mean?” Rizzo asked rhetorically. “Where there’s a long-term deal on the table, the team has a little bit of risk there. And the player has a little bit of risk that he’s locked in for that many years. So, I think that those are the best deals, when there’s a little uneasiness on both sides I think you’ve come to a good, fair deal, and that’s what we discussed here.

“We discussed different terms of a deal and Keibert wanted the longest-term deal that we discussed.”

There are a number of young, talented players like the catcher on the club right now, and the GM did not rule out the possibility of trying to sign more of them to the sort of long-term deals they gave the backstop.

“I think that there’s no limit to what we can pursue and what we can do organizationally,” Rizzo said. “Again, the specifics are: We sign the person as well as the player. I think that we’ve got a number of candidates that fit that description and it’s something that we’re really on the cusp of something I think special because of the youth, energy, and excitement that is not only in this clubhouse but is in the minor league clubhouse.”