Washington Nationals: Joe Ross Controls His Fate

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Apr 25, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Joe Ross (41) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 25, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Joe Ross (41) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
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Joe Ross is back in Triple-A after the Washington Nationals optioned him. What is next for the hurler and what is wrong? We take a closer look.

For Washington Nationals starter Joe Ross, 2017 is a nightmare. The pitcher was quietly optioned to Syracuse Monday, leaving Jacob Turner and A.J. Cole auditioning for the fifth spot in the rotation.

“Joe wasn’t Joe. That was it in a nutshell.” Dusty Baker said to reporters before Tuesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is right, Ross is not the same.

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His slider just does not. His fastball is flat and, according to FanGraphs, has dropped in velocity. Last year, the fastball averaged 92.8. This time, 91.9. The sinker shows drop, from 92.6 to 91.6. His slider is up, not only in the zone, from 83.7 to 85.5.

Declining velocity on your fastball is never good. Ross, who relies on pitch movement to retire batters, threw flat and struggled with command. Because of his style, he will never be efficient with pitch count. Six innings on a good day is good.

His last two starts, given major run support, Ross failed to get past the fifth inning. Sunday against the New York Mets, he was finished after four with 76 pitches and an ERA of 7.47.

With a bullpen that cannot get out of their own way, the decision to send Ross back to Syracuse is smart. He needs to work on mechanics, durability and confidence. Staying in Washington is asking for trouble. In a corner, Blake Treinen nods in agreement.

Speaking of Treinen and the bullpen, here is Ricky Keeler’s take on Tuesday’s game:

Washington never bad mouths their own players publicly, but the relationship between Ross and the Nats seems strained. They talked about his work ethic last year before the Winter Meetings. Before trading Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez away, you wonder if they shopped him.

Ross did not make the team out of Spring Training. With the emergence of a new Gio Gonzalez, Ross wet from contending for the four-spot to Syracuse. The Nats talked about roster numbers, but you do not option players secure in the rotation. Even fifth.

His first start in Syracuse was a disaster. A cold, raw April day against rival Rochester that was done before the third. Ross pitched like an unhappy man. A better start followed versus Pawtucket and a recall to face Atlanta where he earned a win.

Since then, there are more questions than answers. Still young, Ross turns 24 on May 21, time is on his side. But, he must put in the work to earn a regular spot. He will never be an Opening Day starter, but he can throw mid-rotation well if he works on endurance.

Next: Andrew Stevenson Promoted To Syracuse

You get the sense this trip to Syracuse is lengthy. Ross will return, but how soon is on him.

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