Joe Ross took the 2020 season off, opting out due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the Nationals right-hander believes he can use that time that rested his arm to his advantage as he ramps up for a return in 2021.
"A little similarity to being injured," Ross said about being away from the game during a recent Zoom video call. "I'm sure the adrenaline first time back facing hitters is going to be through the roof. I think that might be the biggest thing as I start to throw off the mound more and getting some guys in the box to kind of build that comfort up. Rust is, I guess, the word you could use. It will be difficult with this extended time off, but at the same time, it kind of gave my arm a break and I could use it to my advantage in the long run as far as being prepared for the season."
The Nats certainly would love to see Ross ramp back up to where he was at the end of 2019. And with the departure of veteran AnÃbal SÃ¡nchez, there is availability at both the No. 4 and No. 5 starting spots in next season's rotation.
"Still competing for a starting spot," Ross said. "I doubt that extra time off is really a disadvantage. It's easier to get back in the swing of things when you have less time off, but I have always been confident in myself and my ability so to come back and have a strong year and win one of those starting spots and be able to compete alongside the starters that we have, which are some of the best in the game for sure. It's always fun to be around them and you are always learning something, and those are some of the things I look forward to doing again this year that I kind of missed out on last year."
Training in the offseason in a COVID-19 environment meant players like Ross and infielder Josh Harrison were careful how many people they were around when they worked out. Ross said it was a pretty easy adjustment in his home area of Oakland, Calif., but he was cautious.
"I was fortunate during the shutdown there was a strength coach of a team that was nearby and he had a backyard setup," Ross said. "This is when like you weren't really seeing anyone. I think I saw my two friends I was living with and this guy and his roommate. That was really about it for couple months. I was able to kind of get the workout in three or four times a week, go to their place in the back yard and kind of staying on top of it.
"I know a lot of guys have a home gym setup. That was big to go and do that at my brother (Tyson Ross') house for a while, and throwing with him. Baseball is a game of adjustments. You have to make adjustments on the fly. It's no excuse for whatever is to come in the next season, but I think it's something that we all have to get over as far as a hurdle in 2021."
Harrison spent a lot of time last offseason coming back from an injury. So his time in spring training was a little bit different than a player who was already with a team. The veteran infielder was moving from the Tigers to the Phillies, and eventually to the Nationals on July 27.
"I'm fortunate enough. When I had my surgery last year in June, I had been working out with my personal trainer pretty much from August until spring training started," Harrison said. "When spring training started, my main thing was getting back into playing shape because I had pretty much been working out for six, seven months. So I was in shape. So when spring training got shut down, we were just staying in shape and I needed more being on the field day to day, playing nine innings, come back the next day."
Similar to Ross working out with his brother, Harrison called upon his family's baseball experience to help him stay in rhythm over the past month as he gets ready for spring training. And he is thrilled to be 100 percent healthy this time around.
"This offseason for me was pretty much what it was last year," Harrison said. "I'm back with my personal trainer. He can come to my house. So I'm not really around a lot of people. I got a home setup, so I'm fortunate enough to have that. My brother is a minor league manager. If I need to hit BP, he will throw to me. I kind of got it made because he only lives five minutes away."