[ed. note: There have been concerns about the drop in velocity for Joe Ross from the start this season, but this afternoon it was down noticeably again, and the right-hander ended up getting lifted just 3 1⁄3 innings into his start against the Atlanta Braves. Dusty Baker told reporters after the Nationals’ 10-5 win that Ross is getting an MRI after experiencing “some tricep tenderness”. More info when it’s available... which might be a while with the All-Star Break this week.”]
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:
Heading into this afternoon’s “first-half” and series finale with the Atlanta Braves, Joe Ross was unbeaten in his last three starts, (2-0), with a 2.18 ERA and a .247/.310/.429 line against in 20 2⁄3 innings pitched over that stretch.
After an up and down start to the 2017 campaign, the 24-year-old righty was starting to turn things around, at least in part, according to the pitcher, manager Dusty Baker, and General Manager Mike Rizzo, because Ross was starting to get more comfortable throwing a changeup along with the sinker/slider combination that got helped him rise through the ranks in the minors before making his MLB debut as a 22-year-old in 2015.
“The last few starts definitely I’ve been feeling really good throwing it,” Ross told reporters after he held the New York Mets to two runs on eight hits in seven innings last time out before today, in a 114-pitch outing.
“I threw probably, I think three in a row the last batter, so being able to mix that in obviously, then not being so heavy load on the fastball/slider, has definitely helped, and it’s gotten some early outs, roll-overs, just some out-in-front fly balls without having to work so much with two pitches.”
Ross threw 22 changeups total against the Mets according to Brooksbaseball.net, 16 for strikes, got 15 swings, two swinging strikes, threw seven for strikes not put in play, and got six outs on the nine total changeups that were put in play.
Baker talked after the start about how impressed he was with fact that Ross has been able to work on the pitch while competing at the major league level.
“How many people pick up a pitch in the middle of the season and have the confidence enough to throw it?” he asked rhetorically.
“Most of the time that confidence comes over the winter and into Spring Training.”
“When players and pitchers that are as good as Joe was coming up — first round pick, he kind of shot through the minor leagues with the Padres and then we acquired him and he got right to the big leagues with us — it’s difficult for these guys to really kind of learn at the big league level and that’s what Joe has done,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.
“Mike Maddux and Paul Menhart — our pitching coordinator in the minor leagues — [have] done such a great job with him.
“We sent him to the minor leagues to do just that, to learn how to throw a changeup, we thought that was the final piece of his development as a solid starting pitcher. He had the really devastating sinker and slider, but lefties were sitting on it and when you can eliminate one pitch it makes hitting much easier, so we sent him down, worked on the changeup, kind of on the minor league level really forced him to throw a number of changeups a game.”
Heading into this afternoon’s series finale, opposing hitters still had a .296 AVG on the changeup, which is obviously still a work in progress, a .243 AVG against his slider, and a .296 AVG on Ross’s sinker.
Ross tossed two scoreless on 26 pitches to start this afternoon, working around a one-out single in the first and a two-out double in the second as the Nationals jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
He ran into trouble in the third when he issued back-to-back, two-out walks to Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo in front of Freddie Freeman, who hit a 90 mph, 1-0 sinker out to left-center for a game-tying, three-run home run.
Ross didn’t make it through the fourth inning, however. His velocity was noticeably down from the start this afternoon, averaging 89-90 according to Brooksbaseball.net, and after a mound visit by pitching coach Mike Maddux, the Nationals’ trainer Paul Lessard, and then Dusty Baker, he was lifted one out into the fourth inning.
POST GAME COMMENTS:
After the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves, 10-5, Dusty Baker talked to reporters about the decision to lift the right-hander after 3 1⁄3 IP and 63 pitches.
“We saw his velocity was like 89-88 and then Mike [Maddux] saw something and we decided to take Joe out,” Baker explained, “and especially when he walked those two guys in front of Freddie [Freeman], those balls weren’t even close, and usually that’s not Joe, so he has some triceps tenderness and he’s in taking an MRI right now so we don’t know the results yet.”
Though the Nationals, and Baker himself, have noted the concerns about Ross’s velo dropping earlier this season, the skipper said today that the latest issue is something that only came up this afternoon.
“I think it popped up today,” Baker said, “because he didn’t throw a pen, cause he was going to be needed just like Tanner [Roark] possibly in the bullpen, which you do at the end of the first half, it’s kind of all hands on deck, so he didn’t throw a pen the other day, so to the best of my knowledge, it just popped up today.”
Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes noted after the game that Ross was having the MRI, so he was unavailable to speak to reporters.
Joe Ross wasn't available to speak because of the MRI. So this probably will loom over the break without a lot of answers.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) July 9, 2017