ATLANTA -- Keibert Ruiz is back in the Nationals lineup, and he’s expected to stay there for a while.
Ruiz, the Nationals' No. 1 prospect, missed three starts with a left knee bruise after fouling a ball off of himself in Saturday’s game. He pinch-hit on Tuesday night, and came through that well enough to be inserted into Wednesday’s starting lineup, catching and batting seventh. Now it’s a matter of getting him in a groove.
“I want Keibert to go out there and play four or five days in a row,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Just let him go out there and let him play and learn and go out there and compete. But he felt good today. I watched him take batting practice yesterday. Swung the ball well in BP, so it was good to see.”
Ruiz didn’t get off to a hot start upon arriving in the Major Leagues with Washington, going 3-for-21 after being promoted from Triple-A Rochester. Still, there’s little doubt that he’ll hit. The 23-year-old has produced throughout the Minor Leagues, including a combined .310/.377/.616 with Triple-A Oklahoma City and Rochester.
“He was hitting the ball really, really well in Triple-A,” Martinez said. “So I just want him to come up here, relax, and just have good at-bats.”
Fortunately for the Nationals, Ruiz is not their only young catcher. Riley Adams, also acquired at the Trade Deadline, has hit .327/.439/.545 for Washington. Martinez said he’d still like Adams to play once or twice a week upon Ruiz’s return.
Still helping out
Larry Walker had some kind words for Martinez during his Hall of Fame induction speech on Wednesday. Walker and Martinez were teammates with the Montreal Expos from 1989-91.
Martinez is two years older and was three years ahead of Walker in his career at the time, and Walker credited Martinez for being something of a mentor in his early years in baseball.
“I always prided myself on being the best teammate I could possibly be no matter where I was,” said Martinez, who said he was able to watch Walker’s speech. “So it was good to hear him acknowledge the fact that we were good teammates. I know that he went on and played for Colorado, I went on and played for many other teams. And he remembered that. We always talked about how he learned to take guys in and make sure you’re there for them. New guys, old guys, whatever, just be a good teammate.”
Martinez noted with some amusement that, in a way, he’s still doing the same thing in 2021 that he was in 1989.
“It’s funny,” he said. “because he said those things, and I kind of look at where I’m at right now, and I’m still teaching guys how to transition from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues.”