Highlights from Davey Martinez’s media availability from Atlanta on Wednesday…
Walker Thanks Martinez and Other Expos:
In his Hall of Fame induction speech on Wednesday, Larry Walker thanked a long list of the people who helped him throughout his HOF-worthy career, including some teammates who welcomed him to the majors in his rookie season in Montreal.
“I do want to give a shoutout to a few people that took me in during my rookie days in 1989 with the Expos,” Walker said.
“Tom Foley, Spike Owen, Mike Fitzgerald, Dave Martinez, and especially Tim Wallach.
“They all welcomed me into the fraternity of being a major leaguer, and made the transition from the minors to the majors smooth and easy, and I was very grateful for that.”
Dave, or Davey, Martinez, in his fourth year as the manager for the Washington Nationals, did see the speech, and he talked to reporters before the second game of three with the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday about hearing his name mentioned by Walker on that stage.
“Yes, I did watch,” Martinez said. “Larry is a great man. He’s a fun teammate, we had good times together. It was funny, because he said those things, and I kind of look at where I’m at right now, and I’m still teaching guys how to transition from the minor leagues to the big leagues.”
Martinez, of course, was sort-of joking about his role with the currently rebooting Nationals, who are working a new wave of players into the mix, after a full-on sell-off of expiring deals, (and a year-plus of Trea Turner), at the trade deadline this past July.
Knowing that all these years later Walker still remembered how he was welcomed to the big leagues meant a lot to Martinez.
“It’s awesome,” Martinez said. “It means a lot to me that I can reach out to — especially because he was my teammate, and I always prided myself on being the best teammate I could possibly be no matter where I was, so it was good to hear him acknowledge that we were good teammates, and I know that he went on and played for Colorado, I went on and played for many other teams, and he remembered that.
“We always talked about how we learned how to take guys in and make sure you’re there for them. New guys, old guys, whatever, but just be a good teammate.”
Keibert Ruiz Returns To Lineup:
Keibert Ruiz fouled a pitch off his knee in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with the New York Mets in the nation’s capital, and the 23-year-old catcher sat out of a couple games before getting up as a pinch hitter in Tuesday night’s series opener with the Atlanta Braves in Truist Park. Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked to reporters after the loss to their NL East rivals, about whether the pinch hit appearance was a sign that the backstop was good to go again?
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Martinez said.
“I mean, the biggest thing is him squatting behind the plate, so he’ll come tomorrow and get his work in and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Before the second of three with the Braves on Wednesday, Martinez confirmed Ruiz would return the lineup.
“He’s doing good,” the manager said. “He’s in the lineup as of right now. He did everything yesterday, all activities. He said he feels good. He pinch hit yesterday, he said he felt fine.
“So, he’s going to give it a whirl today, but he said he feels fine.”
Acquired in the trade with the Dodgers that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA, Ruiz, described by Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo as the main cog among the fourth prospects, (including starter Josiah Gray) the Nationals’ received in return, was called up from Triple-A Rochester last week so the big league club and its coaches could get a firsthand look at the catcher.
Martinez said on Wednesday, as he’d said previously, that the plan is to send Ruiz out there on a regular basis down the stretch.
“Yeah, no, I want to get him out there and get him constantly playing and let him play every day,” Martinez said. “The other thing also too is I want to get Riley [Adams] at least once or twice a week in there as well. But I want Keibert to go out there and play four or five days in a row and let him — just let him go out there and let him play and learn and go out there and compete. So, but he felt good today. I watched him take batting practice yesterday, and he swung the bat well in BP, so it was good to see.”
Through six games (four starts) before he started behind the plate on Wednesday, Ruiz was just 3 for 21 (.143 AVG) since coming up to join the Nationals, and Martinez talked about the popped up balls we were seeing from the switch-hitter early in his time with Washington.
“We talked a little bit about just him getting ready a little bit earlier, being more on time,” the skipper said. “I think I’d rather see him hitting balls in the air than hitting ground balls. I want him definitely to set up a little bit earlier. I talked to him about it, and like I said, yesterday he had a really good BP, so we’ll take it from there.”
Asked if he thought big league pitchers might take advantage of Ruiz moving towards the plate some, closing his stance as pitchers came in to pound him inside, Martinez said that they didn’t want to put too much in the catcher’s head right now, and preferred to just let him do his thing, and then adjust accordingly.
“I think he can cover it well,” Martinez said.
“I don’t want to give him too much information, I mean, he was hitting the ball really, really well in Triple-A, so I just want him to come up here, relax and just have good at bats.”
Overall at Triple-A this season, Ruiz had a combined .310/.377/.616 line, with 24 doubles, 21 home runs, 30 walks, and 33 Ks in 72 games played in the minors when he was called back up to the majors to make his debut with the Nats.
Soto Still Taking His Walks:
In 35 games and 150 plate appearances since the Nationals’ fire sale at the trade deadline, before last night’s game, Juan Soto was 31 for 104 (.298/.507/.519) with 43 walks and 20 Ks over that stretch. Soto, 22, is the main block around which the Nationals are rebuilding, or rebooting as they’ve framed it, and, a reporter noted, in spite of the team’s struggles since July 30th, he’s stayed with his patient, sharp-eyed approach at the plate, when pressing a bit and trying to make things happen for your club would be kind of understandable.
“He goes through spurts like that where we notice that he’s really trying hard,” Martinez said.
“But we always have to have that conversation with him. He can only do what he can do, and if they’re not going to pitch to you, if they’re going to pitch around you, then accept your walks.
“We often talk about — I talk about with these guys how to be a good teammate, and that’s part of it, getting on base for the guys behind you, and he does a great job with that. He’s got such an unbelievable eye for such a young kid. He knows the strike zone well. So, the biggest thing I always tell him, ‘Be ready every pitch. When you get a ball that you think you can handle, and hit hard, be ready to hit it, because they’re so few and far between that he’s got to be ready at every pitch.”
Martinez was asked once again if Soto reminds him of any other hitters from his long career in the game?
“I always often talk about an old teammate of mine, Barry Bonds, who had an unbelievable eye,” the skipper said, “… and you talk about somebody that accepted his walks. He walked 150+ times a year, but when he did get a pitch to hit, we all know how far he could hit it.”