Ruiz back on field for light workout, Meneses back on bench

LOS ANGELES – Though he’s now on the injured list with a case of influenza that has plagued him for a week, Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz was at Dodger Stadium today and went through some light drills on the field before tonight’s game.

“He’s still a little bit under the weather, but he felt good enough to come out and do something,” manager Davey Martinez said. “So that’s a good sign.”

That was a welcome development for Ruiz, who last played eight days ago, the opener of the Nats’ nine-game West Coast trip. He began feeling ill the following day and spent the rest of the week hoping he’d be well enough to play but ultimately unable to do it.

Not wanting to take any more chances with only one healthy catcher, the Nationals placed Ruiz on the 10-day IL prior to Monday’s game and recalled Drew Millas from Triple-A Rochester. Millas will start tonight’s game, ending Riley Adams’ streak of four consecutive games caught.

Teams are only allowed to backdate IL moves three days, so even if he feels well enough to play soon, Ruiz won’t be eligible to return until April 23. It’s possible the Nats will decide to have him play in a few rehab games with a minor league affiliate to give him a chance to get back into game shape before he’s activated.

“We hope we can get him back soon and get him into starting some activity, take some batting practice, throwing and that kind of stuff,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels strength-wise when he fully comes back. I don’t know if we’ll have to send him on a rehab assignment; we’ll see. But we definitely need to build his strength back up. He lost some weight, too. We’ve got to get him healthy.”

* Joey Meneses isn’t in the Nationals lineup for the second straight day, the third time in four days. It’s an unusual spot for the 31-year-old, who has basically been an everyday player since making his major league debut in August 2022.

Meneses, though, is off to a slow start at the plate. After a 5-for-12 opening series in Cincinnati, he’s gone 5-for-37 with zero extra-base hits and 11 strikeouts, leaving him with a paltry .523 OPS.

With outfielder Jesse Winker (1.004 OPS) off to a great start and with Jacob Young getting significant playing time in center field, Meneses has become something of the odd man out in recent days, leading to his benching.

“I have confidence in Joey that he’s going to hit,” Martinez said. “Right now, he is struggling. We’re trying to get him some early batting practice. He’s going to get back out there. But I’m thinking more about the young guys like Jacob Young and those guys that need to get at-bats and need to play. And also defense: Jacob really helps us out in the outfield. And Winker’s swinging the bat really well.

“I don’t want to sit Joey for too long. I want to get him back out there and get him some at-bats. For me, it’s a good problem to have, and I’m able to mix and match and do some different things. I talked to him and told him: ‘This is not a punishment. I want you to get right. You’re going to get your at-bats.’ He’s done some good things for us the last couple years. I want to get him back out there.”

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