Adams delivering behind plate with Ruiz sidelined all week

OAKLAND, Calif. – Riley Adams has been an everyday catcher before. Just not very often in the big leagues.

Since joining the Nationals in August 2021, Adams has been the team’s No. 2 catcher, backing up Keibert Ruiz, making one or two starts a week except for rare times when Ruiz has been unavailable.

This week has turned into one of those rare times. Ruiz hasn’t played since Monday, beset with flu-like symptoms that have prevented him from playing in any of the Nats’ last four games and likely will sideline him again for today’s series finale against the Athletics.

Aside from one start Wednesday by Drew Millas during his brief promotion from Triple-A Rochester, it’s been all Adams behind the plate this week. And he’s handled the situation with aplomb, delivering both offensively and defensively for a team that has desperately needed it.

“He’s a godsend for me,” manager Davey Martinez said following Sunday’s 3-1 win. “Anytime I call upon him, he does the best he can. Today was another example.”

Adams went 2-for-4 with a key hit to help make a ninth-inning rally possible. And he guided MacKenzie Gore and the bullpen through a brilliant performance that included 18 strikeouts. All this while starting a day game after a night game, a rare assignment for any catcher.

“I feel fine,” the 27-year-old insisted. “It’s obviously early in the year, so we’re still good. You’ve always got to train for that, always have to be ready to step up. We want Keibert to get back and feel better. In the meantime, I’m just trying to help out and do what I can.”

Ruiz has periodically felt better in recent days, and he managed to catch some warmup pitches each of the last two days while Adams was rushing to put his gear on after batting. But Ruiz showed up at Oakland Coliseum Sunday feeling sick again and spent much of the morning hunched over at his locker in street clothes.

“We’ve just got to be able to turn the corner with him,” Martinez said. “Yesterday, he felt better during the game. Then he went home and said he felt sick again. Woke up this morning and was still sick.”

Even when he’s not playing regularly, Adams approaches each day as if he will be starting. He takes part in all pitcher-catcher meetings and knows what the plan is for every opposing hitter, whether he’s actually behind the plate or not.

“I think that’s pretty simple,” he said. “It’s just being ready, no matter what. Even days I’m not playing, I treat that as the same game plan of how I want to look at hitters and try to develop my own scouting report. Keibert and I are in all the meetings with pitchers, from the pre-series ones to each starting pitcher. We’re always in there together, and you just have to be ready if the situation comes up.”

If he starts again today, Adams will have been behind the plate for seven of the Nationals’ first 15 games. He’s batting .318 (7-for-22) with a double, a homer and four RBIs.

Is he up for a third straight starting assignment this afternoon?

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “That’s kind of our job, to play baseball. Whatever I can do to get out there, I’m ready to go.”

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