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Nationals' starter Joe Ross not done yet, puts together another solid start

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Washington Nationals' right-hander Joe Ross gave up just one hit and an unearned run in Thursday night's 4-2 win over the San Diego Padres who drafted him in the 1st Round in 2011. How far will the Nationals' take the 22-year-old righty?

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At some point in the near future, and no one's saying exactly when, Washington Nationals' right-hander Joe Ross will reach his innings limit/pitch count for the season and he'll be shut down for the year.

The concern in his case is that the right-hander has never thrown this many innings in a season before.

Ross threw six innings on Thursday night, leaving him at 66 ⅔ total so far in the majors and 142 ⅔ overall on the year between Double-A, Triple-A and the Nats' rotation.

"Joe is not an injured player, he's not rehabbing from an injury. So we're going to see where his innings are at, see how he's throwing, see how he's feeling and we'll let the eye test really take us to if and when his season ends..." -Mike Rizzo on Joe Ross on 106.7 the FAN

Ross went up to 122 ⅓ in 2013 and 101 ⅔ in 2014 before the San Diego Padres traded the 2011 1st Round pick to the Nationals in the three-team deal that brought top infield prospect Trea Turner to the Nationals as well.

General Manager Mike Rizzo explained earlier this month, in an interview on 106.7 the FAN, that Ross is not limited like Stephen Strasburg was in Strasburg's first year back from Tommy John in 2012, but the Nationals are being mindful of his total innings pitched.

"Joe is a 22-year-old rookie," Rizzo said. "We're going to be careful with him, but this is kind of a different scenario than our other players that we've talked about going on pitch limits and pitch counts and that type of thing.

"Joe is not an injured player, he's not rehabbing from an injury. So we're going to see where his innings are at, see how he's throwing, see how he's feeling and we'll let the eye test really take us to if and when his season ends."

After Ross bounced back from two less-than-stellar outings in losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants with a seven-inning start against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he gave up just six hits and one run, he talked to reporters about going deeper into a season than he has before.

"I feel good," he said. "I don't feel like I'm getting tired at all. I'm sure at some point they might kind hold me back a little bit, but as of right now, I feel good."

"Good sliders. Good sliders with two strikes, down and away looking like it's a strike and tailing back off the plate. He pitched really well and he'll be ready for his next one." -Matt Williams on Joe Ross vs the Padres

He followed that outing up with six strong last night in the Nationals' 4-2 win over the Padres who selected him out of Oakland, CA's Bishop O'Dowd High School with the 25th pick in the first round of the 2011 Draft.

The only hit Ross allowed was a bunt single by Cory Spangenberg in the fourth, on which Wilson Ramos made a two-base throwing error, setting the Padres up with a runner on third that they cashed in with a sac fly to center.

The Nationals rallied to take the lead in the fifth, and after a 1-2-3 top of the sixth by Ross, added another for a 4-1 lead that allowed them to go to the bullpen after Ross threw just 77 pitches.

"The fact that we added one and we got two in [the fifth] inning and we could get him out of there after the sixth, it was good for him," Williams said. "It'll just help him stretch through his next starts."

"Just more of the same," Williams said of the work Ross did against the Padres.

"It's command. A few more changeups to lefties tonight. I think that was working for him better than it has in the past.

"Good sliders. Good sliders with two strikes, down and away looking like it's a strike and tailing back off the plate. He pitched really well and he'll be ready for his next one."

But how many starts will he get? Is Ross close to the end of his 2015 campaign?

"We'll see," Williams said. "Tonight's an indication that he's still feeling okay. What did he have, 75 or 76 pitches tonight? So if we can limit that and get ourselves into a position to win ballgames, then we want to try to do that.

"Again, each game will dictate what we can and can't do."

Tanner Roark is currently down in Potomac stretching out so he can fill in if and when he's needed in the rotation, but for now, the Nationals have a sort-of out-of-nowhere success story in Ross, giving them more than anyone outside of Rizzo and his scouts could have predicted when the season began.