The Dodgers placed catcher Will Smith on the injured list on Saturday with neck inflammation, and recalled catcher Keibert Ruiz from the alternate training site at USC.
Smith first hurt his neck in a home plate collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. in San Diego on August 3, but he felt well enough to start in five of the next eight games. Smith felt his neck lock up while fielding a ball on Wednesday, then left that game in the fifth inning and didn’t play in the two games since.
“Will hasn’t done anything as far as moving around, baseball-wise,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday. “He’s day to day, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that [he could be placed on the injured list].”
The move was retroactive to Thursday, meaning the earliest Smith could be activated from the injured list is August 23.
Smith is hitting .188/.341/.406 with two home runs, though given his batted-ball data his expected numbers include a .309 batting average and .597 slugging percentage. Smith has 13 exit velocities of 95+ mph out of 28 batted balls, his 46.4-percent hard-hit percentage second only to Corey Seager (a fifth-in-MLB 60.4 percent) on the team.
This is the first stint in the majors for Ruiz, who was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in November 2018. There are no minor league stats to go on this season with no minor leagues, but the switch-hitting Ruiz hit .261/.331/.347 in 85 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, all but nine of his games with Tulsa.
Less than a month removed from his 22nd birthday, Ruiz once he appears in a game would be the youngest Dodgers catcher since 21-year-old Dioner Navarro started 49 games behind the plate in 2005.
Ruiz has been with the club this weekend in Anaheim, though this isn’t a true road trip since the Dodgers aren’t staying in a hotel, but rather driving to and from Angel Stadium each day. Ruiz has taken part in catcher and pitcher meetings.
“Keibert’s done a fantastic job, everything we’ve asked of him at the secondary site,” manager Roberts said. “He’s understanding how we do things as far as signs and game planning.”
Sunday sure seems like a good place for Ruiz to start, considering he caught 28 minor league starts by Dustin May over the last three seasons across three minor league levels, including in the Texas League championship clincher for Double-A Tulsa in 2018, which May and the Drillers won.
Ruiz is the fourth Dodgers rookie called to the majors for the first time in 2020. Victor Gonzalez was recalled on July 30 and pitched an inning in relief in his major league debut one day later. Mitch White was recalled on August 1 and Zach McKinstry was recalled on August 5, but both were optioned back to the alternate training site day after their promotion, without playing.
Ruiz will wear uniform number 25.