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Keibert Ruiz gets opportunity to prove he belongs with Nats originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Keibert Ruiz woke up at 6 a.m. Monday morning, unable to sleep any later on a milestone day for the 23-year-old catching prospect.
The Nationals called Ruiz up to the majors Monday for him to make his D.C. debut against the Philadelphia Phillies. He’ll bat sixth and catch starter Josiah Gray, the other co-headliner of the trade deadline deal that netted the Nationals four prospects in return for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
“I was very happy,” Ruiz said of learning he was being called up. “I just called my mom after they gave me the news I was going back to the big leagues. Called my mom, my dad and it was really happy, too. [I’m] grateful for this opportunity, just looking forward to have some fun and get to know everybody.”
It isn’t the first time Ruiz has reached the majors. He played in eight games for the Dodgers between the 2020-21 seasons, collecting two hits — both homers. Power has been Ruiz’s calling card in Triple-A this year. He hit .310 with 21 home runs and 24 doubles (both career highs) across 72 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers and Rochester Red Wings.
Now that he’s back in the big leagues, Ruiz hopes to stick around this time. The Nationals will give him the opportunity to play on a near-everyday basis while Riley Adams spells him for one or two games a week. With 33 games left on the schedule, the Nationals will give Ruiz a chance to get acclimated with his new club. Though he did do some work ahead of time to learn the repertoires and tendencies of his new pitching staff, there’s no replicating the real thing.
“I want to keep learning,” Ruiz said. “I got [bullpen coach] Henry Blanco here, great catcher for a long time in the big leagues. I wanna be on his side to keep learning and I just wanna get to know all the pitchers here, get to know everybody and try to be on the same page.”
The Nationals spent most of August auditioning Adams and Tres Barrera at catcher to see if either could make the push for a roster spot next season. Adams (1.032 OPS in 18 games) swung a better bat than Barrera (.758 OPS in 30 games), who was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Ruiz. Manager Davey Martinez said Monday that Adams will start working out at first base to improve his versatility while Barrera gets everyday at-bats in the minors.
However, neither catcher is expected to push Ruiz for playing time moving forward. The Nationals’ consensus top prospect will have his first extended opportunity to prove he can produce at the major-league level, both as a hitter and a catcher. The last time the Nationals were even testing out a highly ranked catching prospect was 2010, when deadline acquisition Wilson Ramos made his Nationals debut.
More than a decade later, Ruiz has arrived in D.C. The Nationals don’t yet know what they have in him, but they’ve called him up now to get a head start on evaluating his place in their future.