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Washington Nationals’ bullpen help: Joe Ross is finally a reliever...

Joe Ross could end up being a big part of the Washington Nationals’ relief corps...

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Upon calling Joe Ross up from Triple-A earlier this month, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked with reporters about how the 25-year-old righty, who had started exclusively over the previous three seasons, after debuting in the majors with 16 appearances, 13 of them starts, back in 2015, would be used out of Washington’s bullpen for the foreseeable future.

“I spoke to Joe and he’s a reliever,” Martinez said, “and he’s going to come out and he’s going to pitch. I told him there are going to be some days when he comes out and just pitches one inning, and if we deem it necessary where he can pitch a couple innings it would be great, but he’s a reliever, and he’s going to pitch, and he’s all for it.”

“What he can help us do is he can help us right now in the bullpen. And that’s where we see he fits,” the manager added.

Ross hit the first batter he faced, walked the next, and gave up three runs on a three-run home run in his 2019 debut out of the bullpen in New York, in what ended up a 12-9 win.

Martinez told reporters afterwards that it was a good situation for Ross to get his feet wet.

“For me it’s perfect to get him here and get him out,” Martinez said.

“Get him out there to get his nerves calm. He came out throwing 95 MPH, which is kind of nice, but he settled down and he threw strikes, and then he got hit, but I think Joe is going to be fine. I wanted to get him out there as soon as possible and it worked out that we got him out there today.”

Ross tossed two scoreless two days later, but was off the mound in game action for so long after that second appearance that a reporter asked if there was anything wrong.

“He’s good, yeah, he’s definitely good,” Martinez said last Thursday.

“I want to make sure that I take care of him. It’s a new role for him, in the bullpen, but we’re going to find ways to use him, it might be tomorrow, who knows, but we have to use him.

“He’s going to have to start getting involved too.”

In a close game against the Fish in the series opener in Miami, Ross tossed two scoreless on 22 pitches, working around one hit to keep it close after the Nats fell behind 3-1 in the sixth.

He came on in a bases-loaded, two-out situation and got the final out of the inning, worked around a single in the seventh, and got two outs in the eighth before Martinez went with a lefty vs lefty matchup with Tony Sipp against Curtis Granderson.

Ross averaged 95 MPH with his fastball (10 pitches according to, mixed in his slider (which sat 87-88 MPH), and threw one sinker (93 MPH).

Martinez said after the game, a 3-2 loss to the Fish, that he talked to Ross about the outing and told him he liked what he saw from the righty as he got comfortable in relief, and was starting to see how effective Ross could be in that role.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Martinez said. “I talked to him, like I said, we had a great conversation, I told him that he did an amazing job, and that from here on out he’ll be used [as] more of a guy, instead of a long-man, so if he can bounce back, we’ll see tomorrow how he feels and we’ll go from there.”

A “guy” in this context, apparently means a higher-leverage reliever, which the Nats could use in the back end of the bullpen.

“I have to look at him more as just a regular reliever,” Martinez told reporters, as quoted by’s Jamal Collier, “not just a long man and see what he can do.”

“I’m all for it,” Ross said on Friday, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty, when asked about adjusting to whatever role he’s asked to fill.

“I like to do as much as I can to help the team win in those shutdown innings that we need.

“Our starters have been going really well, but I feel like late in the game, whatever happens, things kind of fall apart sometimes. But you know, I’m ready.”

Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, before the second of three in Miami, that he wouldn’t be afraid to throw Ross out there again if he said he was good.

“It’s a good possibility. Maybe not as long today if he can, maybe one or two hitters if we need him. If he could do it, I said yesterday I have to look at him more as a regular reliever and not just a long man and see what he can do.”

Ross didn’t pitch in either of the final two games against the Marlins. He’s on a pitch/innings limit in his first full season back following Tommy John.

Will the Nationals be able to use him effectively and get him the work and rest he needs as he works his way back?

Now that he’s in the bullpen, and hasn’t thrown on a regular basis for a few weeks, is he going to stay in the ‘pen for the rest of the season?