Ross healthy again, but will need another rehab start

CLEVELAND - Joe Ross is back with the Nationals this week, part of their traveling contingent for their interleague series against the Indians. But he’s not back in their rotation just yet, still needing to make at least one more rehab start before he can be activated off the disabled list.

Ross made the first of his rehab starts Sunday at Single-A Hagerstown, tossing three scoreless innings on 43 pitches. The right-hander said he emerged from that outing with no shoulder issues, but he recognizes he still needs to build his arm back up a bit more before he’s ready to return.

Mostly, Ross (who has been on the DL with shoulder inflammation since the beginning of the month) used this as an opportunity to work on some minor mechanical tweaks and some refining of his changeup.

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“Not huge things,” he said. “More just trying to focus on giving my arm time to get in the right slot. I feel like I tend to be a little late sometimes, which probably is why my shoulder was bothering me in the first place.”

Ross is scheduled to throw off the bullpen mound at Progressive Field before Wednesday afternoon’s game. He’ll likely head to a minor-league affiliate to make his next rehab start Saturday, though the details of that start have yet to be finalized.

The Nationals, who optioned Lucas Giolito to Triple-A Syracuse after Sunday’s disappointing outing against the Padres, will need to name another starter for Saturday’s game in San Francisco. Rookie Reynaldo Lopez, who remains on the same throwing schedule as both Ross and Giolito, appears to be the most likely choice.

For Ross, waiting throughout this process has been particularly difficult.

“Pretty frustrating,” he said. “Not anyone’s fault. Just frustrating not being able to play. Especially days where it would be your start day. ... It’s tough, but I’ve got to get back healthy, back on track and hopefully finish the season strong.”

That’s the Nationals hope, that perhaps this midseason break can actually be good for Ross, who might be fresher down the stretch than he would have been had he pitched straight through the entire season.

That’s another tough one for Ross to understand, at least at this moment.

“That’s mostly what I’ve heard from other people,” he said with a laugh. “I’m obviously focused on: ‘I want to play right now.’ And they’re like: ‘Hey, look at it the long way. You’ll be better toward the end of the season, right before the playoffs.’ It’s hard to think of it that way when your main focus is getting back right now.”

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