Ruiz feeling better, likely to go on short rehab stint

As he described the illness that sidelined him now for nearly two weeks, Keibert Ruiz was asked if he’d ever been that sick before.

“When I got COVID,” the Nationals catcher said. “This was kind of the same. My whole body was in pain. Fever every three, four hours. The whole night sweating.”

Ruiz has finally moved past the worst of his case of influenza, which first began afflicting him 13 days ago in San Francisco and ultimately forced him to the 10-day injured list. He described himself as “90 percent” better now after a particularly rough stretch while the team was on the West Coast last week.

Ruiz has been able to start some baseball activities, hitting off a pitching machine, participating in some defensive drills and partaking in some light weight lifting. He was set to begin running before today’s game against the Astros.

The ordeal took a real toll on the 25-year-old, who lost 18-to-20 pounds.

“But I feel good. I feel lighter,” he said. “So I’ve got to take the positives. I feel like I can run better, move better. And I gain weight fast, too. I’m going to eat a couple burgers.”

Because the Nationals waited until April 15 to place Ruiz on the IL, and because those moves can only be backdated three days, he won’t be eligible to return until Monday, an off-day for the team. In theory he could be activated for Tuesday’s series opener against the Dodgers, but the team seems inclined to have him go on a short rehab stint first, most likely with Double-A Harrisburg.

“If it’s me, I feel ready to go,” he said. “But they want me to play some games down there, just two games, and then come back.”

The club’s concern about bringing Ruiz back too soon, especially after he lost that much weight, is that he would not be able to physically hold up through a nine-inning game behind the plate, or that he might pull a muscle running the bases.

“Being sick for anybody is not good,” manager Davey Martinez said. “But to be sick and have to catch nine innings, that’s tough. I want to make sure he goes out and plays some games before he comes back.”

A noted workhorse who typically starts five or six days a week, Ruiz has admittedly had a tough time watching from the dugout the last two weeks. He’s played in only eight of the Nationals’ first 20 games.

“It’s hard,” he admitted. “I feel like I’ve been down for like a month. And I don’t want to be out that long.”

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