Washington Nationals’ righty Joe Ross got some relatively good news after the 28-year-old right-hander was diagnosed with a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow a few days back.
Ross traveled to see Dr. Keith Meister, who performed the Tommy John surgery the pitcher underwent in 2017, after he felt right forearm tightness following a bullpen session and he was evaluated by Dr. [Robert] Najarian, and his exam was consistent with a flexor pronator strain, as manager Davey Martinez told reporters on Sunday morning.
“With that being said, we sent him for an MRI due to his past history,” Martinez continued, in his pregame Zoom call with reporters this past weekend.
“We got the MRI back and it showed a partial tear of his UCL.”
Martinez cautioned at the time that it didn’t necessarily mean that Ross would have to have a second TJS, and after consulting with Dr. Meister again, the Nats’ skipper said on Tuesday that for now they think the pitcher can avoid another surgery and rehab the tear.
“Joe went and saw Dr. Meister, and as of right now he’s not going to need surgery,” Martinez said before the series opener with the Toronto Blue Jays last night. “[Dr. Meister] said it’s basically a sprain, so he’s going to have some significant amount of time before he comes back, but I deem that good news, so we’ll see when he gets back, he’s going to have to go through some extensive rehab, some time off, but I thought that was good news that he won’t need surgery as of right now.”
Was Ross similarly positive about the relatively good news?
“I haven’t talked to Joe yet,” the skipper said. “I’m going to call him here in a little while, because he’s been traveling, but I’m hoping that he’s — of course he’s not going to be happy, because he wanted to continue to pitch, but like I said, I think that’s great news, and we’ll get him the rest that he needs and get him back on the mound as soon as we can, but I don’t expect him at this point to pitch any more this year, because we want to make sure that he’s completely healthy and that he’s ready to go in Spring Training.”
Ross had Tommy John surgery in 2017, returned in ‘18, returned to pre-surgery form at times late in ‘19, then opted out of playing in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, but got back at it over the winter, returned to the club this season and was up and down on the mound in 20 games (19 of them starts), with a 4.17 ERA, a 4.38 FIP, 34 walks (2.83 BB/9), and 109 Ks (9.08 K/9) in 108 IP before the injury.
He’s done for 2021, but the Nationals and Ross are now hopeful that he won’t end up having to have another Tommy John surgery.
“Right now it’s going to be — he’s going to have to rest for a while,” Martinez explained. “You know, when he gets back, we’re going to sit down with Dr. West and go over a plan for him. But like I said, the good news is that he doesn’t need surgery, and that was the big concern.
“He’s going to rest, and like I said this before, I don’t see him pitching for us in 2021, we just want to make sure that when he comes back he’s healthy, and we get him ready for next spring.”
With the, as we said, relatively good news, the Nationals can get a head start on the rehab for Ross, and start working towards 2022 now.
“For me the best thing that happened was the news that he didn’t need surgery and then we can go from there,” Martinez said. “No time — as I sat down and talked to Joe, it’s never easy especially for a young kid like Joe that’s been through what he’s gone through already, to shut him down for any reason.
“He was upset about it, but when I talk to him I need to reiterate that, ‘Hey, this is great news, it’s headed in a positive direction,’ and he has to look at it like that now we just got to get him built up and get him strong again and have him get ready for Spring Training.”