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Washington Nationals’ Joe Ross suffers setback; has surgery to remove bone spur from right elbow...

On Day 1 of Spring Training, there was unfortunately a bit of bad news for Joe Ross and the Nationals...

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

“Joe had a setback,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on Sunday, in his first press availability from West Palm Beach, FL and Spring Training. Joe, of course, is the Nationals’ starter, Joe Ross, 28, whose 2021 season ended prematurely after he suffered a torn UCL in his right elbow that doctors determined did not require a surgical fix.

That he was able to avoid a second Tommy John surgery was seen as good news for the righty, but on Day 1 of ST 2022, Rizzo shared more bad news.

“He had a little bone spur removed from his elbow in Dallas on — what day was it, the 7th of March,” Rizzo explained.

“So it’s going to set him back 6-8 weeks in his preparation, so he won’t start on time with us.

“It was a very minor scope that he had, and like I said, should set him back 6-8 weeks, but he should be feeling good after that.”

Once again, it’s relatively good bad news for Ross, who experienced pain in his elbow as he ramped back up for the start of the 2022 campaign.

“We always thought that we were going to take a slow pace with Joe because of the UCL issues that he had,” Rizzo continued, “... but I think that we’re going to have to rely on our depth a little bit more now, and hopefully Joe — when Joe is ready, he can be part of that depth and help us out more towards the back end than the beginning of the season.”

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said on Sunday that he talked to Ross as soon as he could once he heard the news of the starter’s latest setback.

“I talked to him right away,” the manager said in his own press conference with reporters from the club’s spring home.

“I talked to him right before the lockout as well to see how he was doing, and I talked to him when we found out that he was going to get it cleaned up the other day, and he says he’s glad that it’s out of there, and hopefully he can come back sooner than later, but he says hopefully he won’t feel any of the pain that he was feeling. He would throw, and he felt soreness, and he felt pain, so it was a procedure that needed to be done, we’re glad he did it, and now it’s going to be 6-8 weeks hopefully and we get him back as soon as possible.”

Ross was shut down for the season after an August 10th start last summer with a 4.17 ERA, a 4.36 FIP, 34 walks, and 109 Ks in 20 games, 19 starts, and 108 innings, with a .237/.306/.402 line against on the year.

Rizzo said that the righty was well into his offseason throwing program when he the issues with his elbow once again cropped up.

“He had the surgery on March 7th, so he was well into his throwing program. He felt good,” the GM and President of Baseball ops in D.C. explained. “And then when he felt a little tingle in there, we obviously went right to the MRI and found — kind of [felt] a little bit of relief that it was this bone spur on the tip of his elbow that was making him feel uncomfortable, so we felt that instead of pitching through it or doing the anti-inflammatory, rest kind of thing, we both figured that it is such a minor surgery, we knock it out and give him his best chance to perform for us for the majority of the season.”

Before the Nationals reportedly signed veteran starter (and a 2019 World Series champion) Aníbal Sánchez to a minor league deal that brings him back to the nation’s capital, Rizzo talked about the need to add to the rotation and bullpen before the season gets underway on April 7th.

[ed. note - “According to multiple reports the Nationals have also signed veteran starter Aaron Sanchez to a deal as well.”]

“I think we need to build depth in our pitching both as starters and relievers,” he said.

“I think that some of our targets going into the offseason, prior to the lockout and now post-lockout, is that we’d like to bolster our pitching, both starting and bullpen.”

With Stephen Strasburg (who is in camp now and throwing already, after having surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last year) a question mark going into the season, and now Ross in rehab mode and set back a bit, that need is likely even greater. Sánchez signed. Right-hand reliever Steve Cishek just inked a big league deal. Those probably will not be the last moves to bolster the pitching corps in Washington.