clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals' Gio Gonzalez on Joe Ross: "Even his height is impressive."

Everyone in the Washington Nationals' organization liked what they saw from 22-year-old starter Joe Ross in 2015 and as of now the 2011 San Diego Padres' 1st Round pick, acquired by the Nats last winter, is penciled into the Nationals' major league rotation.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Maddux referred to Joe Ross, jokingly, as "the younger brother of another guy" when the Washington Nationals' new pitching coach talked to reporters about the Nats' 22-year-old right-hander earlier this winter.

Ross said he talked to Maddux for the first time when the team and its coaches gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for Nats WinterFest last month.

"I've talked to him a little bit," Ross said. "I haven't really met him before today. He seems like a really good guy. Just joking around and keeping it pretty loose, so I'm sure during the season if that's how it is, then he'll get along pretty well with the guys."

"When we started talking about bringing him up, people thought we were crazy -- some in the organization thought we were crazy..." -Mike Rizzo on calling Joe Ross up to make his MLB debut

Ross also met Dusty Baker at WinterFest, for the first time... since the veteran skipper got the job in the nation's capital, but he had some history with the Nationals' new manager, actually.

He ran into Baker in a restaurant a few years back.

"I wouldn't say I was shy," Ross explained, "but I was probably 19, so I wasn't going to go say, 'Hey, I'm Joe Ross, nice to meet you,' but of course my dad was first to go say something, so I guess I had to follow behind and say 'Hello.'"

He said he thought Baker actually remembered him from their brief encounter when they met up again last month, and added that he looked forward to working with the veteran of nineteen major league seasons as a player and twenty as a manager.

"I've heard a lot of good things about him," Ross said. "He seems kind of like a straight shooter. So I think it will be fun, we'll get along pretty well and I'm interested to see what's going to go down in Spring Training."

Ross made his MLB debut in 2015 after he was acquired from the Padres in last winter's three-team trade with San Diego and Tampa Bay, and went (5-5) with a 3.64 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 21 walks (2.47 BB/9) and 69 Ks (8.10 K/9) in 16 appearances, 13 starts and 76 ⅓ innings pitched, finishing the year in the Nats' bullpen once he tired towards the end of his longest season to date as a professional (152 ⅔ IP).

"Obviously towards the end I got a little tired," Ross acknowledged, "but it's a lot more innings than I've thrown in the past. I think, I noticed like right after the last game in New York, on the bus, it seemed like it all hit me and I was like, 'Wow, my legs and everything [are] pretty tired.'"

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, in talking about the way Ross handled himself in his first few major league starts back in June, said that he thought it probably helped the young starter that he had a brother in the majors, in the Padres' Tyson Ross, to talk to and learn from as he came up through the minors and jumped from Double-A to D.C. this past season.

"I'm telling you," Rizzo said, in an MLB Network Radio interview, "the influence his brother [Tyson] has had on him must be terrific, because this guy, at [22], when we started talking about bringing him up, people thought we were crazy -- some in the organization thought we were crazy -- but what I saw in this guy was a poised, polished young man that pounded the bottom half of the strike zone with some sink at the end of it, 95 and with a good slider and he shows you all the skills of a really good starting major league pitcher."

He won't turn 23 until mid-May, but as of now, and barring any further signings or unforeseen setbacks this Spring, he is penciled in as one of the Nationals' five starters with Spring Training just over a month away.

"Even his height is impressive. Joe is just incredible. Seems like he's just going to get better and better..." -Gio Gonzalez on Nationals' starter Joe Ross

"Sometimes you have to throw the age out the window or the level that he's performing at out the window," Rizzo said not long after Ross debuted,  "and just say, 'Hey, do we think that this guy is going to be ready for the big leagues stuff-wise, command-wise, make-up-wise?' And he checked all three boxes and the reports that we had from our people in the minor leagues said, 'The one thing that I can guarantee you, he will not be overwhelmed or afraid of the big leagues,' and they couldn't have been more correct."

It was an impressive run by the former 1st Round pick (2011 San Diego) who attacked hitters and pounded the zone with his fastball (93.9 mph AVG; .258 BAA) and slider (83.8 mph AVG; .135 BAA).

"Even his height is impressive," Gio Gonzalez said when asked for his impressions of his rotation mate at WinterFest.

"Joe is just incredible. Seems like he's just going to get better and better. Seeing his brother and then seeing him, I feel like I'm watching Tyson at his young age, in his prime and stuff like that. But they're both polished pitchers, geniuses. Their father and mother are very smart parents. And the way Joe goes about his business, I mean, everyone on the team loves him. His personality fits us all. He can take a punch here or there with some jokes. He just seems like he's been doing it for quite a while. With Joe, when he's on the mound we just feel confident that he's going to get us a win. His slider is incredible, his fastball is electric."

Ross might want to consider hiring Gonzalez as his agent. As for his advisor, Ross said he did talk to his brother over the course of the 2015 campaign.

"We talk a lot, mostly not baseball related... but obviously after my games mostly, he would watch -- a lot more games than I realized, actually -- so he'd ask me how I felt or how I felt about certain situations and we'd kind of talk about that and he'd give me -- I guess -- his two cents and give me, not things to work on, but an opinion. I trust him, obviously he knows what he's talking about and he's done well so far, but most of the time when we talk it's very non-baseball related."

As for what they discussed when they did talk pitching?

"I guess just pitch selection in certain situations," Ross said.

Lest anyone think he's taking anything for granted as he prepares his second major league campaign, Ross stopped short of saying he was comfortable as he worked out and prepared to head to Spring Training after spending time in the big league rotation last year.

"Obviously, a little more -- I wouldn't say comfortable, but, you know, 'confident'. Having last year, and getting some time in the big leagues, so just the same mindset really and just looking forward to Spring Training."