Ruiz gets night off after taking a beating behind plate

Monday night’s game had barely begun before Davey Martinez found himself emerging from the dugout with director of athletic training Paul Lessard to check on Keibert Ruiz, who had just taken a foul ball off his facemask and appeared to be dazed to some extent.

Ruiz would remain in the game, and he would catch all nine innings of the Nationals’ 5-4 win over the Cubs, despite taking another foul ball off his mask later and then fouling a pitch off his right knee in his final at-bat.

Nobody said the life of a catcher is easy, but this was a particularly rough game for Ruiz from a physical standpoint. So it’s probably no surprise he’s not in the lineup for tonight’s contest.

“I talked to our trainers yesterday, and I just wanted to give him a little breather,” Martinez said. “Plus, we have a day game tomorrow, so I had to pick and choose. I thought today would be a good day to just let him relax. After the first one, he said he felt a little lightheaded and dizzy. That kind of scared me a little bit. Then he got hit again. So for me, it’s just about letting him take a break.”

Tough as it was to watch, Ruiz apparently did not suffer the kind of ailments that would’ve required him to undergo a formal concussion test or even be pulled from the game.

“No, he said he was fine,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing with those tests is, if he starts having headaches or feeling dizzy after the game – which we checked on – then we really have to go through all these protocols. But he said he felt fine after the game.”

It’s been a grueling season for Ruiz, his first full season in the majors. He has played in 85 games as a catcher, a number topped only by the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto (93). That puts him on pace for 118 games total at season’s end, a number previously topped in club history only by Brian Schneider (2005-06) and Wilson Ramos (2015-16).

The Nationals want Ruiz to get used to the workload, though, understanding it’s going to benefit him as he continues to develop as a big league catcher. The 24-year-old has impressed team officials with his advancements behind the plate. And though his offensive numbers (.243/.302/.350 slash line) have been a bit underwhelming, they’ve always believed that that part of his game will improve with experience.

“You saw signs of what he can do when he does keep his head behind his swing and gets behind the ball,” Martinez said of Ruiz’s lack of power this year. “He can hit them hard, and he can elevate the ball. We’re going to continue to work with him on that. I think it’s going to come. He’s got tremendous bat-to-ball skills; I talk about it all the time. So he’s going to get better. But it is a long season for a catcher to be out there every day. And he’s done it well.”

Tres Barrera, who is just 5-for-29 with one double and four RBIs in 12 games this season, is starting tonight. Ruiz is expected to be back in the lineup for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale.

Nats rally twice but still lose another in extras ...
Game 118 lineups: Nats vs. Cubs
 

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