Ruiz's season likely over, McGee designated for assignment

PHILADELPHIA – Keibert Ruiz’s season has likely come to an abrupt end after the Nationals placed their young catcher on the injured list with a testicular contusion that forced him to remain in a St. Louis hospital overnight after he was struck by a foul ball during the team’s series finale against the Cardinals.

Ruiz was discharged and was flying to Philadelphia late this afternoon to rejoin the Nationals, who formally placed him on the 10-day IL prior to tonight’s game against the Phillies. Manager Davey Martinez, though, said Ruiz has been instructed not to partake in any strenuous activities for three weeks, which leaves him almost no chance of making it back before the season ends in 26 days.

“We hope that he just continues to get better,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he’s doing. But with everything going on, the doctors said he’s not able to do anything strenuous for three weeks. So we’re just going to take it day by day and take it from there.”

Martinez generally was encouraged about Ruiz’s progress in the last day and didn’t sound overly concerned about his long-term well-being. Assuming his season is over, the 24-year-old will finish with a .251 batting average, 22 doubles, seven homers, 36 RBIs and a .673 OPS across 433 plate appearances.

Ruiz enters the day having caught 106 games, second only to the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto this season. He has thrown out 18 basestealers while also picking off four runners, giving him 22 total runners thrown out (again, second only to Realmuto among all major league catchers).

“I’ll tell you, he’s done really well,” Martinez said. “We talk about him a lot, but he’s matured behind the plate. He’s gotten a lot better at calling games. His hitting has gotten a lot better. As you know, he’s a catch-and-throw guy. He can throw guys out. He blocks balls well. He’s going to be a big part of our future moving forward. I truly believe one of these years, this kid will be an All-Star. He’s improved that much.”

Though they already had two other healthy catchers on the current 28-man roster with Riley Adams and Tres Barrera, the Nationals decided to add another today, purchasing Israel Pineda’s contract from Triple-A Rochester. Pineda, 22, has been on a fast upward trajectory this year, playing 67 games at high Single-A Wilmington, then 26 games at Double-A Harrisburg, then six games at Rochester before earning his surprise first promotion to the majors.

Pineda, signed out of his native Venezuela in 2016, has totaled 16 homers, 71 RBIs and a .783 OPS across 400 minor league plate appearances this season. He’s also thrown out 30-of-78 basestealers across.

“I feel really, really good,” he said. “I’m excited, because this is my best year. I worked a lot for this year, and I’ve got a really good result right now.”

The Nationals needed to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Pineda, which they achieved by designating reliever Jake McGee for assignment. The 36-year-old left-hander had only joined the club last month, hoping to resurrect his career after struggling in San Francisco and Milwaukee earlier this season. But in 12 games, he allowed seven runs on seven hits and five walks, and the club decided to end the experiment and instead recall right-hander Jordan Weems from Triple-A to fill out the bullpen.

“Jake, he actually did clean some things up,” Martinez said. “I think at this particular moment, we’re at the point where we want to see some of our younger guys come up here and see what they can do and see what we have for next year as well. Jordan being one of those guys. Jordan’s throwing the ball well, and up here threw the ball well for us. We wanted to bring him back.”

* MacKenzie Gore threw off the bullpen mound here today, and barring any complications, the left-hander will make a rehab start Sunday for Rochester at Syracuse.

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