In his second start of the season on Thursday night, Joe Ross went seven strong for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, limiting the Pawtucket Red Sox to one run on six hits.
Ross did not walk a single batter and he struck out six in the 85-pitch, 60-strike effort, which followed a less-than-stellar outing in his 2017 debut.
That start saw the 23-year-old right-hander give up six hits, three walks and four runs, three earned, in just 2 2⁄3 IP over which he threw 75 pitches.
Dusty Baker was asked this afternoon, before the series opener with the Philadelphia Phillies what, if any, reports he received on his starter.
“The same things that you got,” Baker said. “It’s a little different pitching down there. You’ve got to create your own adrenaline just to compete.
“I don’t put as much credence in numbers as other people do, especially with some people, because Joe is a guy that depends on defense.
“I don’t know what kind of defense they have down there. One play can turn the whole inning around.
“The main numbers I probably look at are probably walks, probably, but then you don’t know how good the umpiring is there either. So it’s tough to really judge, the main thing is we just want Joe to pitch and be healthy.”
Ross went (7-5) in his second major league campaign last summer, posting a 3.43 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 29 walks (2.49 BB/9) and 93 Ks (7.97 K/9) in 19 starts and 105 innings, but he missed significant time on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
Since the Nationals didn’t need a fifth starter early this season, they sent Ross down to Triple-A to get his work in. Is the plan still for Ross to return to the rotation when there is a need for a fifth starter?
“I hope so,” Baker said. “I hope so and I hope that some time in the future that Joe, for his career and our sake, will move up eventually and not be a No. 5 starter anymore, because the No. 5 starter is a tough spot. I mean, that’s the guy you skip in the order, invariably, if you have off days or whatever, that he’s matching up with No. 1s and No. 2s, he’s not always matching up with fours or fives.
“That’s a tough spot, but you’ve got to pitch your way out of that spot.”
GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies on Wednesday that the plan is to have Ross return, but starting him in the minors made sense for a couple reasons.
“Remember he came off a shoulder injury last year,” Rizzo explained, “missed two and a half months of the season last year, so we’re going to nurse him along early in the season because we want to make sure that he’s prepared to finish the season strong.”
“In the minor leagues, we knew that we’d only miss Joe pitching one time in the first three weeks of the season, so we felt it was more important for us to send him to the minor leagues, have him pitch in the minor leagues, where we can really control his pitch limit and his innings until he gets to the big leagues and there’s a need for a fifth starter again around the April 19th area where we’re going to need a fifth starter again and this way we’ll have saved him three or four starts that we can utilize later in the season.”