Washington Nationals: Joe Ross’ injury muddies water for options

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 09: Joe Ross /

Already struggling with bullpen issues, the Washington Nationals are prepping to lose starter Joe Ross long term. Where do things go from here?

The Washington Nationals face another huge injury problem with the loss of starter Joe Ross.

Whether Ross receives an injection for his balky right elbow, or needs to undergo Tommy John surgery, he is out for a while. Perhaps a full season. Although the platelet injection will shut him down for most of the rest of the regular season.

Whatever it is, this is not good. Already stretched thin on offense with injuries, along with a bullpen needing serious help, the Nats options are limited.

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For now, they will cobble together who they can from Syracuse to fill the role. Edwin Jackson is the first candidate while Erick Fedde turns back into a starter from a short relieving stint. Fedde has yet to throw over four innings a game as Jackson impresses for the Chiefs. With the Baltimore Orioles, however, he struggled.

In three relief appearances with the O’s, Jackson was lit up like a Christmas tree. In five innings, he allowed 11 hits seven runs, two home runs, four walks and two strikeouts. That gives him an ERA of 7.20 and a WHIP of 3.000. Ouch.

International League hitters have struggled against him. In 40.2 innings with Baltimore and Washington’s Triple-A teams, he has allowed 29 hits and eight walks. He is a true wild card.

As much as we think making the playoffs and winning the division is a done deal, it is not. Sure, chances are a near lock. But, no one is printing postseason tickets yet.

Washington will need a competent fifth starter for the foreseeable future.  If they cannot find one in Syracuse, then they must trade for one or sign someone off the scrapheap to finish the season. Again, there is a small problem. Money.

With the team on the cusp of breaking the competitive balance tax limit, the Nats find themselves with three needed pitchers and $2.5 million to spend before getting hit with a 20 percent tax for every dollar after. You might have noticed there are not a ton of top prospects to trade either.

Oh yeah, the trade deadline is two weeks from Monday. You can never say the Nats bore you.

Time is not on Washington’s side. If Ross can return this year, look for them to treat the fifth starter as they have the closer role, a hodgepodge of mixing and matching with a dash of anxiety thrown in. If he undergoes Tommy John, or if Tanner Roark continues to struggle, then they must bring in an outsider.

Every team needs four starters for the playoff. Washington cannot stumble into a division title without knowing who their potential NL Divisional Series Game 4 starter is.

Next: Nats after Zach Britton

All you can do is hope for the best.