Dusty Baker sees the same minor league box scores available to everyone else online, so he knows Joe Ross pitched seven innings of one-run ball Thursday afternoon for Triple-A Syracuse.
The Nationals manager, however, isn’t so quick to evaluate Ross’ performance strictly off his pitching line. Because the setting didn’t exactly match what the right-hander would be seeing in the big leagues.
“It’s a little different pitching down there,” Baker said. “You’ve got to create your own adrenaline just to compete. To me, I don’t put as much credence in numbers as other people do. Especially with some people. Because Joe’s a guy who depends on defense, and I don’t know what kind of defense they have down there. You know, one play can turn a whole inning around.”
What, then, does Baker look at from a minor league box score?
“The main numbers I look at are probably walks,” he said. “But then you don’t know how good the umpiring is there, either. So it’s tough to really judge. The main thing is, we just want Joe to get to pitch and to be healthy.”
Ross has been doing just that, making two starts for Syracuse so far and putting himself in position to join the Nationals’ rotation Wednesday in Atlanta.
Asked if he expects Ross to make his next start for the Nats, Baker replied: “I hope so.” The manager also said he hopes the 23-year-old soon establishes himself as something more than a No. 5 starter so that he doesn’t end up the odd-man-out when the team has off-days and the opportunity to go with a four-man rotation.
“That’s a tough spot,” Baker said. “But you’ve got to pitch your way out of that spot.”
On the mound today is Stephen Strasburg, who is making his third start of the season and once again will be pitching exclusively out of the stretch. The right-hander ditched the full windup in spring training, hoping it would help him repeat his mechanics and avoid any movements that could lead to injury.
So far, the switch hasn’t been a problem for Strasburg, who owns a 3.21 ERA and an 11-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“He’s getting used to it, and we’re getting used to seeing it,” Baker said. “If he goes out of the windup, we’re all going to be shocked. Whatever works for him. It doesn’t matter to me. He can stand on his head if he can get people out. I don’t make any big deal out of it. The more he does it, the more he’ll get used to it and get a better rhythm overall on the mound.”
Speaking of getting used to things, Matt Wieters is still getting used to the Nationals pitching staff. The new catcher, who signed as a free agent during the second week of spring training, has gotten off to a hot start at the plate, with a .370 batting average and 1.114 OPS. He is, though, still developing a rapport with his pitchers when he is behind the plate.
Max Scherzer was charged with three wild pitches during Wednesday’s loss, and though the ace took the blame for not having a good feel for his changeup, Wieters also took some responsibility for not knowing Scherzer as well yet as he will after working with him a few more times.
“We’re still in the process of learning about him,” Baker said. “And he’s still in the process of learning our pitching staff, especially our relievers. ‘Cause there’s a lot of guys he only caught once or twice, if that. So no, he hasn’t caught up yet. He’s still a little bit behind. His best days are yet to come, and ours, too.”