Barrera heading to Triple-A, Adams starts learning first base

Keibert Ruiz's arrival in Washington has a domino effect on the Nationals catching corps, which has suddenly grown in size and promise in the last month. The 23-year-old top prospect is going to start most days the rest of the season, manager Davey Martinez revealed today, which means far less playing time for anyone else behind the plate.

The plan, then, for now: Tres Barrera is headed back to Triple-A Rochester, where he will continue to catch on a daily basis, while Riley Adams becomes the backup catcher in the big leagues while beginning to get some work at first base.

Barrera's demotion wasn't a huge surprise; he had seemingly fallen behind Adams on the organizational depth chart in recent weeks. But the 26-year-old had nonetheless performed well while consistently playing in the majors for the first time in his career.

Thumbnail image for Barrera-Throws-Red-Sidebar.jpgOver 107 plate appearances this season, Barrera hit .264 with two homers, 10 RBIs, a healthy .374 on-base percentage and .758 OPS. He cooled off at the plate somewhat in the last month but went 5-for-8 with a homer and a walk in back-to-back starts during the Nationals' recent road trip.

The club wants its 2016 sixth-round pick to focus on his game-calling and defensive skills at Rochester, where he'll also be working with Cade Cavalli, the organization's top pitching prospect.

"He's done well. He's done really well," Martinez said of Barrera during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. "So he's going to go down there and have a chance to catch every day."

Adams, meanwhile, figures to catch a few times a week as Ruiz's backup. But the club will use this opportunity to also give the 25-year-old a chance to learn techniques at first base, with an eye on the future there.

"He will catch once or twice a week, for sure," Martinez said. "I actually want him to learn how to play a different position, which will probably be first base."

Adams has only a bare minimum of experience at any position besides catcher. He played three innings at first base for a Blue Jays Single-A affiliate in 2018. And he played one game apiece at first base and in left field in 2016 while still in college.

The Nationals, though, see some potential for the 6-foot-4, 246-lb. Adams to provide power from another position when he's not catching. He has exceeded expectations since his acquisition from the Blue Jays for closer Brad Hand, hitting .349 with four doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, a .451 on-base percentage and 1.032 OPS over 51 plate appearances.

The club doesn't know how sustainable that kind of production is long-term, but if nothing else the organization would like to know if Adams can play another position to help create more opportunities down the road.

"He's a really good athlete," Martinez said. "For a big guy, he moves around pretty well. I'm just going to talk to him and see where he feels he's comfortable. I already talked to him a little bit about playing some first base. If he feels comfortable playing left field, we might try that as well."

Don't take that as a sign the Nationals intend to make any kind of permanent position switch, though. The club still views Adams first and foremost as a catcher.

"He does well back there, and he's a student of the game," Martinez said. "He understands the catching aspect of it. He understands how to call games. He's done well calling games. We definitely don't want to deter from that, so he needs to understand - and I talked to him about it - that he is a catcher first. We want to do this for in-game stuff. If we have to make a move and we know he can play another position, it helps us out a lot."

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