Coming off a 12-day layoff, Joe Ross tossed five scoreless in his 2021 debut, giving up just two hits and two walks in what ended up a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Dodger Stadium.
Asked about getting lifted when he did, after just 67 pitches, Ross, 27, said he understood the decision by manager Davey Martinez.
“Just hadn’t really pitched in a while, you know,” Ross said. “I was getting built up there in Spring Training, and then I think with extended time off, and the length of a full season...
“Hopefully I’ll get built up and feel more comfortable going deeper, later in the game as we go forward.”
With, potentially, a little longer leash in start No. 2, Ross’s turn in the rotation came up again in Wednesday’s finale of the three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals.
His manager was asked before the outing about what he waned to see from the righty on the mound in Busch Stadium.
“Just consistency,” Martinez said. “He had the good outing his first outing, hopefully he goes out there today and is consistent throwing strikes.
“The biggest thing for him, as I said, is attacking the strike zone and he did it really well his last outing.”
He did it really well again.
Ross dominated the Cards over six scoreless innings, giving up just four hits and one walk in an 89-pitch effort in which he struck out five batters, and induced nine ground ball outs from the 22 batters he faced.
Joe Ross, Beautiful 95mph Front Door Two Seamer. pic.twitter.com/RX12b30G9l— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 14, 2021
Joe Ross’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 89 P, 63 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
“He pounded the strike zone,” Martinez said after the Nationals’ 6-0 win, which gave them two of three in the series.
“His sinker was really, really good today, but when he throws strikes he’s going to be good.
“When he falls behind things get a little crazy for him, when he’s pounding that strike zone and ahead of hitters, he’s really good.”
Ross got three of his nine swinging strikes, and 14 of 21 called strikes with his sinker, which averaged 93.5 MPH and got up to 95.8, and the righty, who had Tommy John surgery back in 2017, and who opted out of 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, said his slider felt like the slider he used to throw.
“I would say today especially the slider felt more like my original slider, pre-Tommy John,” Ross said. “Still changeup not quite where I would like it to be, I only threw a few today.
“But I would say fastball and slider have been feeling pretty good recently, and just trying to build off of those and trying to add in that third, or fourth pitch I guess.”
Fourth pitch, he qualified, because he’s throwing a sinker (45% on Wednesday), slider (33%), and four-seamer (17%), along with the occasional changeup (6%).
He put the change away, for the most part, after working to incorporate it to a greater degree this spring, because he didn’t have a feel for it or feel he needed it.
“I mean it just wasn’t as sharp as I would like it to be,” Ross said of his changeup. “But yeah, worked the four-seam, two-seam, and the slider, they were working. So I guess feeling good with those three, kind of building off those and attacking the zone, and we mixed a couple in there maybe the last two innings. But still not great, but just good enough to get a foul ball, or at least change the perspective, and then, you know, go back to hard-in, or breaking ball. So yeah, still something to work on, obviously there’s always something to work on, but feeling pretty good with the other three pitches.”
The results are good too through two outings, with Ross up to eleven scoreless innings on the mound on the year.
“It feels good. Obviously, coming back and having a good start to the season in general, always a good feeling to start strong,” he said.
His manager said that he thought Ross’s pitch selection, and success, was at least in some part helped by the catcher he was working with on Wednesday.
“His two-seamer was working really well, he’s throwing it on both sides of the plate, and his slider was very effective,” Martinez said, “... so you know the other thing about this is when you’ve got Yan [Gomes] on the other side and [he] sees what’s going on he stays with those two pitches, so it was a good day for both those guys.”