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Joe Ross returns to Nationals’ rotation in tonight’s game with Cubs in D.C.

Close to 14 months after he underwent Tommy John surgery, Joe Ross is returning to the mound in the nation’s capital...

Cincinnati Reds v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Davey Martinez told reporters earlier this summer that he was impressed with what he saw from Joe Ross over the years.

After watching from the opposite dugout, Martinez said he was happy to see the righty throw as well as he did after watching Ross in a simulated game in Nationals Park as he progressed towards live action and worked his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“He’s got that Ross Family Slider, that’s what I call it, that was really good,” Martinez said.

“I’ve seen him, he faced us, and he was nasty, and I remember hitters coming back and saying he’s throw a bowling ball up there with his two-seamer, and his slider, they called it ‘invisible,’ so just glad to see him pitching again, and off the mound and doing so well and he’s very excited about coming back and helping us win ballgames.”

Martinez was asked then what role he thought Ross would take on when he returned. Would he throw out of the bullpen? Return to the rotation?

“What I saw today, he looked really good, and who knows what will happen down the road,” the first-year skipper said, “but if he continues to progress like he is, if we need somebody and he’s ready, I can see him pitching here, yeah, absolutely.”

Ross said his goal in returning was just, “... to pitch in general.”

“I would obviously like to start,” he added, “but we have a pretty good staff, and wherever I can fit in especially in September and hopefully with expanded rosters, as long as I can hopefully get out and throw some innings I’ll be happy. That’s really what I’m working towards.”

Ross made six starts, between the Gulf Coast, Carolina, Eastern, and International Leagues, before he was called back up to the majors earlier this week, and tonight he’ll return to the mound in Nationals Park for the first time since July 9th of last season.

The decision to move rookie right-hander Jefry Rodriguez into the bullpen to control his innings down the stretch opened up a spot in the rotation as Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told it during his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday.

“I think we’re going to stretch him out to start,” Rizzo said of Ross.

Jefry Rodriguez, who’s really made leaps and bounds this year and pitched extremely well for us, shown flashes of a quality right-handed starting pitcher, he’s really thrown a lot of innings this year, last year because of injuries* he [only threw] about 60 innings, so he’s at about 140 innings, so we’re going to cap his innings and put him into the bullpen and have Joe Ross start in his spot.

“So Big Joe is scheduled to start this weekend against the Cubs, and it will be great to see Joe back on the mound and see how far he has progressed in his Tommy John rehab.”

[ed. note - “ * = Rodriguez was suspended for 80 games for PEDs and threw just 57 innings in 2017.”]

Ross was asked earlier this week if he felt he had something to prove over the last month.

“Obviously, No. 1 is being healthy,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr.

“As long as I can finish the rest of this year and feel good and strong, then that’s fine with me. But inside I want to compete, and when I go out and pitch, I’m going to try to win the game. It’s not really a try and prove my worth to the team for the last 30 days, I just want to go out there and win a game.”

Ross will get his first chance to help the Nationals win a game in the second of four with the Cubs tonight in the nation’s capital.