Yesterday, when the Washington Nationals activated Stephen Strasburg and put him back into the rotation, they sent a young pitcher down to triple-A that had made a very good impression with the club in his first three starts.
Joe Ross, a 22-year-old right-hander that was acquired by the Nationals in the offseason along with Trea Turner in the Wil Myers/Steven Souza Jr., came up from double-A Harrisburg and made his Major League debut on June 6 against the Chicago Cubs.
In his three starts, Ross was 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA and pitched into the eighth inning in each of his last two starts. One of the things that were impressive about Ross’ outings was his ability to pound the strike zone. In 20.1 innings, he walked only two batters while striking out 23.
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Unfortunately, for Ross, the Nationals don’t need him at the Major League level at the moment because Tanner Roark moves back into the bullpen with the full Opening Day rotation back together. However, even though Ross got demoted, he gets promoted in a way.
Ross will be pitching at triple-A Syracuse as a starter and has earned the chance to pitch in a different league. When he was pitching for double-A Harrisburg, he was 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in nine starts and was giving up two runs or fewer in seven of those outings. It is clear he had figured out the Eastern League and now needs a new challenge.
Some fans had to be wondering with the way Ross was pitching at the big league level, why was there not a spot for him with the Nats. Matt Williams addressed that issue before Tuesday’s win and how the organization wants Ross to continue his development as a starter:
“He hasn’t relieved. If you have spring training to work on it, it’s one thing, but in the middle of the season, it’s not fair to Joe to say, ‘OK, now you’re a reliever, and we’re going to call down and you need to get ready in 10 pitches.’ It’s just not fair.” (h/t Chris Johnson, MASNSports.com)
Ross, who is the number five prospect in the Nats organization (according to MLB Pipeline)
, will join a triple-A rotation that includes A.J. Cole, Taylor Hill, Taylor Jordan, and Paolo Espino. Ross helped give the Nats the spark they needed, especially when he gave up two runs and struck out eight against the Brewers back on June 13.
Even though he is in Syracuse, the Nationals now know that if another injury should occur in the rotation, they can trust the 22-year-old to fill in and get the job done.