Keibert Ruiz Keeps Playing:
Keibert Ruiz, who debuted in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers and then played 23 games for the Washington Nationals in 2021, after he was traded at the deadline as part of the Max Scherzer and Trea Turner deal, finished his first full season in the majors in 2022 with a .251/.313/.360 line, 22 doubles, and seven home runs in 112 games and 433 plate appearances, with a .992 fld%, 20 runners caught stealing (in 71 attempts, for a 28% CS%), and four runners picked off first base, in a 1.7 fWAR campaign.
First Major League at-bat, first homer for Keibert Ruiz. pic.twitter.com/TOrD55YNC7— MLB (@MLB) August 16, 2020
Ruiz played in 112 games last season, starting 98 behind the plate, and would have added to the total if he had not had an injury (a testicular contusion) end his season in early September.
He’s started in 11 of the Nats’ 13 games this year, including all three with the LA Angels this week, and Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters before Wednesday afternoon’s series finale on the road in Anaheim, California the plan is to keep running Ruiz out there on a regular basis while getting backup Riley Adams in once or twice a week.
“He’s been great. He’s been good,” the sixth-year skipper told reporters of Ruiz before the finale in Angel Stadium.
“I’ve had these conversations with him prior. If he needs a day, we’re going to give him a day. But he came in to me last night, said that he felt really good and he wanted to play today. So he’s going to get an opportunity to play today. Plus we have a day off tomorrow, so he’s done well.
“The biggest thing, and I think he’s realizing, is the time of games now, you know? It’s not taking a long time. He says, ‘I don’t feel so tired anymore, because the games are going so quick.’”
With Ruiz playing just about every day, Adams has just two starts early this season, but it was the plan, Martinez said, and something everyone involved was made aware of earlier this spring.
“I talked to him prior, before the season even started, that [Ruiz] is going to get the bulk of the catching, that [Adams] might play once or twice a week, so just make sure you’re ready,” Martinez said.
It’s a trend the manager said will continue.
“As we start going — it’s early, so as we start getting going and stuff, I might have to give [Ruiz] some days off. I’ll pick spots to get Riley in there and get them both going.
“But for the most part, I want Keibert to catch maybe 125-130 games.”
In Wednesday afternoon’s loss, the Angels stole two bases on Ruiz (and starter MacKenzie Gore), who’s thrown out just 1 of 7 runners early this season (14% CS%), and Martinez said it’s one thing the club plans to work on with the No. 1 catcher in the coming days.
“I think he’s opening up a little bit, the ball is starting to tail on him a little bit,” Martinez said, “… so he’s going to go back at home and work with [Catching and Strategy Coach] Henry [Blanco], get his legs back underneath him, and see if we can’t stop the ball from tailing. The ball to third base [today],” on which Ruiz was charged with a throwing error, “… really tailed on him a lot, and so we’ll get his legs underneath him again and he’ll start making better throws.”
Washington’s Nationals dropped 5 of 6 they played in the season-opening homestand, and manager Davey Martinez talked after the sixth game about turning things around after the rough start to the season.
“We’re going to get better,” Martinez assured reporters. “There’s no doubt about that, and there is a lot of baseball left, so I’m not going to put any onus on — of course I want to win every day, believe me — but I’m not going to put any onus on the first week of the season, I’m not, but we got to get better, we got to get better quick if we want to compete here.”
“We got to play together as a team,” he added, “and get better. I mean, just play good team baseball, and that will happen. We get to go on the road now, get on a plane, and go face Colorado in their home opener, and just try to win tomorrow.”
They did not win the Rockies’ home opener, but played a tightly-contested 1-0 game in Coors Field, and ended up with a split of the four-game series, then they took the opener with LA’s Angels before dropping the second and third games (in 2-0 and 3-2 losses) in Angel Stadium.
“I think we loosened up a little bit on the road, we’re playing better, playing better defense,” Martinez said after the finale in Anaheim.
“Pitchers are keeping us in the ballgames. Our starting pitching has kept us in ballgames, I think that’s the key, so we’re catching the baseball, which is awesome, and we’re moving the baseball like I thought we could, running the bases well, so we just got to keep those going. The one-run games can go either way, hopefully we’ll start winning those games as well.”
In his post game comments after the third of three with the Angels, the Nats’ skipper said he saw positive signs from his club on the road trip.
“I think we played really well, I really do,” he told reporters. “We were in every game, it’s just a matter … we swung the bats fairly well, now we just got to hone in on driving in those runs from third base with less than two outs, I mean, that’s the key right, so we got to keep working on that, but the boys are battling. I’m proud of the way they’re going out and playing the game. We’re playing with a lot of energy, and everybody can see that, so we just got to keep battling. We got a day off tomorrow, a well-needed day off and we’ll come back Friday.”