Ross will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and start the second game of the Nationals’ series against the Braves at SunTrust Park, manager Dusty Baker said today, slotting in between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg for the foreseeable future.
The 23-year-old right-hander was healthy coming out of spring training, but the Nationals elected to demote him to the minors before opening day because they knew they only needed a fifth starter once in the season’s first 2 1/2 weeks. That start, April 8 in Philadelphia, wound up going to 38-year-old Jeremy Guthrie, who was rocked for 10 earned runs and didn’t make it out of the first inning.
Ross, meanwhile, made two starts for Syracuse, posting a 3.72 ERA and allowing just one run in seven strong innings Thursday at Pawtucket.
The Nationals are cognizant of Ross’ workload after he pitched only 118 1/3 combined innings between the majors and minors last season while dealing with a shoulder injury, and keeping him at Triple-A to open the season perhaps helped save a few bullets for later.
Could there be more steps taken to try to limit Ross’ usage the rest of the way?
“Well, hopefully this is the only step we’ll have to make,” Baker said. “Because we did indeed miss Joe. The move that we made to protect Joe kind of hurt us. So, hopefully, we don’t have to do much more protecting of Joe. And if we do, we’ll deal with that when we get there.”
The Nationals also admittedly have to be careful with how Ross mentally deals with his usage this season, hoping they didn’t damage his psyche by optioning him to the minors for non-performance reasons.
“Yeah, I always consider that,” Baker said. “I consider it, because I was one of those guys that got sent down (as a young player with the Braves). So I know what it was like to get sent down. It didn’t affect my psyche as much as it affected my attitude. But that was a different time and day than now. There’s a lot at stake now for these kids: service time, arbitration-eligible, all kinds of things that are affected. ...
“I think Joe went down and performed well, especially at the end. Which is what we hoped. Now, I went down one time and I pouted. Which wasn’t the best thing to do. But I didn’t see the overall big picture at that time. ... I urge my guys not to do what I did.”
The Nationals will need to clear a spot on their active roster for Ross. They’re currently carrying eight relievers, with veteran Matt Albers having been with the club since Guthrie was designated for assignment the day after his start.