Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez started his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Sunday with an announcement, which, when he does that sort of thing, is usually not for the purposes of sharing good news.
It wasn’t good news.
“We had to put Joe [Ross] on the IL today,” Martinez announced.
“Yesterday, after his bullpen, he reported that he had some right forearm tightness, he was evaluated by Dr. [Robert] Najarian, and his exam was consistent with a flexor pronator strain.
“With that being said, we sent him for an MRI due to his past history.
“We got the MRI back and it showed a partial tear of his UCL. So, Dr. Najarian consulted with Dr. [Keith] Meister, who did [Ross’s] first [Tommy John] surgery, so Joe is going to get reevaluated by Dr. Meister again, but I talked to Joe this morning, I just want you guys to be clear, that this is — we don’t know the end result, he’s going to go see Dr. Meister, this doesn’t mean right now that he’s going to have Tommy John surgery. We wanted to make sure that he goes to see the doctor that did his first surgery, then get the results, and then after that we’ll determine what kind of treatment or prognosis will happen.”
Ross, of course, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017, returned to the mound late in 2018, and was back at it 2019 before opting out of pitching in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign.
The latest news, coming towards the end of a year in which his manager stressed all along that they would handle Ross carefully after most of a year off, was obviously disappointing.
“I talked to Joe this morning for quite a while,” Martinez said.
The news for Ross was a blow, but Martinez said that he wanted the 28-year-old, six-year veteran to remain positive while they sort this out and wait to see what Dr. Meister says.
“He’s down, we’re all down, but we hope the best comes out of this, and I don’t I don’t want to make any assumptions until he goes and sees Dr. Meister, and we get a report from him as well.”
“It’s obviously tough because of what he went through in the past,” Martinez acknowledged.
“But the biggest thing now for him to do and for all of us to do is to stay positive for him and he needs to stay positive, and like I said, we’re just going to have to wait for what Dr. Meister diagnoses him with, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed, and then we’ll just go from there.
“But I told him, I said, ‘Hey, you’re still a big part of this team, and we’ll get through this, but we got to stay positive, you’ve got to keep your head up.”
With Ross’s history in mind, and with where the Nationals are at this season, Martinez said the club will be cautious with him going forward.
“We’re definitely going to be very, very cautious with Joe, and like I said, we’ll see what the next few days brings our way with him and then we’ll go from there.
“This is something that, as you know, as we talked about a lot with him, that we’re going to be very careful with him, just as we are with everybody else, but because of his history with his elbow, we’re definitely going to take the precautionary steps to get him right.”
They did, of course, come into the season saying that they were going to be cautious with Ross, but as the fourth-year skipper said, you can’t predict injuries, and though he missed time with right elbow inflammation in July, Martinez said everything was going well with the right-hander until the latest issue cropped up.
“From what we know,” he explained, “the first time he was diagnosed from three different doctors that it was just a forearm strain, and he went through the treatments, he came back, as you know he threw since then and everything was good, his velo was good, everything, he looked totally fine. Yesterday, he came after his bullpen and said he just didn’t feel right, it felt ‘weird’, the exact words that he said, so — we saw Dr. Najarian — [trainer] Paul [Lessard] then decided to just get an MRI, just so we’d have it, and like I said, the doctor read the MRI, it showed a partial tear, and now we’re going to take the precautionary steps to see what’s happening and what’s going on.”
As careful as you try to be, and even if you follow the best medical advice, things happen.
“It’s — there’s a fine line between - because of, one, he sat out last year,” Martinez said, “... and two, he wants to compete, and by the conversations that we had with Joe and we always have with Joe, he felt good.
“He had little issues where we shut him down right away and he came back and he said he felt great.
“Now we’re at the point now where like I said, we did everything we can to keep him healthy, but you can’t predict — for me, you can never predict injuries, they just happen.
“And that’s the troubling part of it. As much as we tried to take care of Joe, he still — he wasn’t for any means, like I said, we shut him down, we missed starts, he went through one [stretch] where we didn’t pitch him for 12 days just to give him a break, but this is where we’re at right now, so moving forward, like I said before, I hope that the end result is that he’s going to be okay, but I’m going to stick by him and I know the Nationals are going to stick by him and we’re going to get through this.”