When Keibert Ruiz joins the Nationals later today, he’ll need to work the clubhouse like a D.C. politician, introducing himself to teammates who have only heard second-hand of his exploits and connecting with pitchers of all experience levels eager to forge a relationship with their new batterymate.
There’s not a stack of “Hello, My Name Is” cards at the clubhouse entrance, but there could be. Ruiz will become the sixth new player added to the roster from outside the organization over the past month, a significant turnover for a team that not so long ago harbored postseason aspirations.
Ruiz, righty Josiah Gray, catcher Riley Adams, outfielder Lane Thomas and right-handed reliever Mason Thompson were acquired in deals leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Reliever Patrick Murphy came from the Blue Jays via a waiver claim.
“We’re getting a chance to see some of the guys we got,” manager Davey Martinez said in his postgame Zoom session on Sunday after a 9-4 loss to the Mets. “I’ll give them opportunities to play. I want to see them play. And it’s been a lot of fun getting to know these guys.”
Thomas seems to have supplanted the struggling Victor Robles in center field and Martinez has not been afraid to use Thompson in higher-leverage situations. Adams has shown flashes on rediscovering his power stroke and Gray has flourished in the rotation, although he’s still seeking his first win in the majors. Murphy, who was claimed on Aug. 24, has spent the least time with the Nats, at least until Ruiz arrives and is added to the team, with the Nats needing to make a move to add him to the 26-man roster.
His new teammates are eager to see what Ruiz, hailed by Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com as the top prospect in the organization after the trade, has to offer.
“I’m pumped for it,” said first baseman Josh Bell. “I know he’s a switch-hitter with a lot of pop, so hopefully we can get things going, get the offense back to where it needs to be. I’m excited for his first homer (as a Nat). I know it’s probably going to come here soon. Hopefully, it happens at home and he can have a crowd behind him.”
Ruiz, 23, is an unknown quantity for right-hander Erick Fedde, who is excited to get to know his new receiver.
“Honestly, I haven’t got a chance to learn much about him,” Fedde said. “I mean, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them, as well as hopefully trying to pass things to him. ... . Definitely excited to get the new face and see what he has to offer.”
That means Ruiz will be on a sharp learning curve, Fedde pointed out.
“Honestly, for him, it’s the tough part of what he’s got to learn - 12 or 13 pitchers,” Fedde said. “It just takes some time. Hopefully, I get a chance to throw with him in a bullpen session or just (bend) his ear when we’re sitting on the bench together before a game just to kind of talk him through what I think makes me successful, how we can create a groove together.”
Errors in judgment and rookie mistakes will be tolerated, but only to a point. But with the increased roster turnover, Martinez’s role morphs back from a manager of a veteran-laden club to a skipper instructing young players trying to make their marks.
“But with that being said, I want them to start winning some games consistently,” Martinez said. “We can sit back and say, ‘Hey, we’re close and we’re playing good,’ but that’s part of teaching, and I’m going to continue to teach these guys.”