Asked what the future held for 23-year-old starter Joe Ross before the series opener with the Orioles in Baltimore on Monday, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker raised the possibility that the right-hander could end up working out of the bullpen once he’s ready to come off the DL.
Ross, who hasn’t pitched since July 2nd when he went on the Disabled List with right shoulder inflammation, had a rehab assignment stopped when he once again felt pain in his shoulder, but he’s been throwing again recently and making progress.
“Joe said he’s feeling good,” Baker told reporters. “The longer he’s out, the longer it’s going to take him to come back to sharpness.
“One of the things that I was talking to Joe about, ‘Hey, man, you might have to come back in a reliever role,’ cause he’s going to have a problem getting rehab time because the [minor league] season ends in 10-12 days and there won’t be anybody to throw to competitively.”
Ross threw a bullpen session this afternoon in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and told reporters afterwards that everything went well.
Joe Ross came out of a bullpen session today feeling great. Threw 25 pitches, no discomfort. He'll be excited to return, even if in bullpen.— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) August 23, 2016
Joe Ross said everything felt "really good" during bullpen session, ready to ramp up again. Thinks extra rest "gave me a little kickstart."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) August 23, 2016
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has previously stated that the time off for Ross may end up being a blessing in disguise since they were going to limit his innings/pitches anyway at some point and not take him too far past his previous season totals.
While he may have ended up on the DL longer than expected, Baker said today that the reports he got on today’s bullpen session were positive.
“One of the trainers came in, our head trainer, Paul Lessard, and he gave me the thumbs up,” Baker said.
“I know Joe has been chomping at the bit and it went very successfully. He said he didn’t feel anything and hopefully we can put him back to work here pretty soon.”
So will it be in the rotation? Or the bullpen as he discussed?
“We haven’t talked about it, just common sense will tell you, how much time does he have to get ready?” Baker asked rhetorically.
“And we are in the middle of a pennant race, so I haven’t talked to Mike [Rizzo] about it or anything, I just talked to Joe about it. I just didn’t want him surprised if that was the case.
“We want him, if possible — if he’s already on the playoff roster, it’s always a possibility for your fourth or fifth starter to be in the bullpen anyway. So we’ll see.”
Asked if they were doing anything differently this time around to make sure he didn’t suffer another setback, Baker explained that there are, of course, things you can’t control.
“What happened last time was what happened last time, who knows, it could happen this time too. We’re hoping not. We were conditioning him in the correct way, but his shoulder just didn’t respond.”