Pitching prospect Joe Ross called up from Double-A to start Saturday

Nationals manager Matt Williams confirmed that right-hander Joe Ross will be called up to make his major league debut and start Saturday’s game against the Cubs.

The 2011 first-round selection was acquired in a three-team trade from the Padres in the offseason, alongside shortstop Trea Turner. The deal, in part, sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays.

rizzo-close-sidebar.jpgRoss, the younger brother of San Diego pitcher Tyson Ross, was rated the No. 4 prospect in the Padres chain in 2014.

Williams said it’s a big deal to have Ross start Saturday’s game.

“It’s opportunity for him to get here,” Williams said. “He’s pitched very well. An opportunity for him to make his major league debut tomorrow and we’re excited about it.”

Ross has gone 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in nine starts and is coming off a tremendous start on May 31 at Bowie.

“Reports have been good,” Williams said. “Last outing, seven innings, 93-96 mph, three hits, (seven) (sic) Ks, in the strike zone. We’re excited to see him. Coming from a different organization. He’s pitched very well there, though. He’s commanded the zone and done everything that’s been asked of him. So he’s going to get a chance.”

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo said the scouting department has had their eye on Ross for some time. They were thrilled to be able to pick him up in the trade with the Padres.

“Well he was a guy we identified in the draft, before the draft and his early days as a minor league player and our scouts did a great job identifying him as a pro player,” Rizzo said. “We made the trade for him. We sent him to Double-A. He ended last year in Double-A, we started him there this year and has really pitched well for us.

“He’s gotten better each and every start. He’s a stuff guy that throws strikes with multiple pitches and we think he’s prepared to take on the challenge of the big leagues at a young age.”

Rizzo said it’s important for young players like Ross to log innings and gain experience by pitching a lot.

“He’s in an important stage of his career because he’s got really good stuff and he’s performed admirably at each level that he’s at and one of the reasons we felt he’d be the guy to go for at least until some of our veteran stars get ready.”

“I think he was a guy that we thought would be quick through the minor leagues for us. But this has accelerated his development even a little faster than I thought he would.”

The Nationals have been aggressive this season in calling up rookies and top prospects like pitchers A.J. Cole, Sammy Solis, shortstop Wilmer Difo and technically even outfielder Michael A. Taylor. They represent four of the top 10 Nationals prospects according to Baseball America.

Rizzo said for most of these players, it’s really just a good time for them to gain experience, see what it’s like in the majors and see if their stuff can play at the highest level.

“We didn’t expect to stay here for the whole year, but it gives us a look,” Rizzo said. “They are talented players and most of all we feel they have the makeup to handle the big leagues and then go back to the minor leagues and continue their development in the minor leagues.”

Now will we see Turner by the end of the season? Judging from Rizzo’s all-in policy early this season, it appears to be a likely proposition.

Williams confirmed that Ross will start Saturday, Jordan Zimmermann Sunday and Max Scherzer on Tuesday night.

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