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Ross has solid MLB debut despite Nats loss

Jun 6, 2015, 4:26 PM EDT

Jun 6, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Joe Ross (41) throws to the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Desperate times call for desperate measures and with two starters on the disabled list and mixed results from their usual spot-starters, the Nationals called on prospect Joe Ross from Double-A Harrisburg to fill in on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs.

It was an unexpected move that caught Ross himself by surprise. He was called in to Harrisburg manager Brian Daubach’s office after a Senators game several days prior and at first thought he was in trouble. Daubach and Harrisburg pitching coach Chris Michalak initially kept straight faces, knowing Ross would have no reason to suspect such a life-changing moment was awaiting him.

And once they told him, Ross took some time to process the news. He was going to make his major league debut at just 22 years old with an organization that acquired him less than six months before.

“It was kind of crazy,” Ross recalled. “I was in shock for a good while. I didn’t know what to say. I was happy, but I didn’t smile or do anything. I was kind of stuck. Then after I called my parents and stuff, it really set in and hit me. I was coming up to D.C.”

Ross’ parents made the trip to Washington for the unusually early 12:05 p.m. start on Saturday. So did his older brother, Tyson Ross, who pitches for the San Diego Padres.

His brother’s presence was supposed to be a surprise before reports on social media spoiled those plans.

“Social media kind of ruined that one. But it was still a surprise to me,” the younger Ross said. “It was awesome. I’m glad my parents could come, that was amazing. [Tyson] surprised me, coming out. I didn’t know until just before the game. That was kind of an extra incentive, knowing he’s there watching me in the stands. It was fun.”

Ross admitted he was nervous when he first took the mound in front of the 38,214 in attendance at Nationals Park. That sure beats the crowds he was used to pitching in front of in the minor leagues.

“A lot of eyes. A lot of eyes in the stands. Nothing compares to this, Double-A or whatever level you’re at. It kind of gave me a little extra adrenaline and then the first-pitch strike really helped me out,” he said.

The first-pitch strike was against Dexter Fowler, whom Ross struck out. The right-hander set down the first nine batters he faced and was perfect through three innings. Then the Cubs saw him for the second time, however, and finally found some luck. They got a run in the fourth on a Kris Bryant infield single. They scored two more off Ross in the fifth inning on hits by Fowler and Anthony Rizzo.

Ross took the first loss of his MLB career, but his three runs across five total innings were plenty to give the Nationals a chance to win. It was their offense that failed to carry the load in a 4-2 defeat, their seventh in their last nine games.

The loss was a tough one for the Nats, as they nearly mounted a comeback in the ninth inning after Bryce Harper led off with a home run. But it didn’t spoil the day for Ross, who impressed his teammates.

“He’s great,” Harper said of Ross, who is the first teammate younger than him he’s ever had at the major league level.

“He’s got a lot of good stuff. His slider is really good. His change-up is dirty. If he throws like that every single day, he’s going to be very tough to face. Especially the older he gets the more reps he gets out there and more comfortable he’s going to get. It’s a lot of fun to watch. If he’s anything like his older brother, it’s going to be pretty electric, pretty lights out. I think as an organization we’re excited, as a team we’re excited. Hopefully he can make another start up here.”

“He looked great. I think a lot of the guys in here are excited about him. He’s a stud,” Ian Desmond said. “He looked like he had done it before. He looked like he had a brother that was really good at pitching.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon also saw similarities between Joe and Tyson:

“Quick arm. Velocity was there. Really, an effective slider, not unlike his brother. They’re pretty similar with the slider. Great athlete… He’s going to be very good for them. Coming out of Double-A, he represented himself really, really well.”

Ross doesn’t know what the future holds for him. If Stephen Strasburg or Doug Fister return soon from the DL, there’s no telling when Ross will be back in the big leagues. He may have to wait until 2016.

Ross isn’t worried about that right now, he is just enjoying the moment after his successful big league debut.

“I’m just glad to be up here and make the start today. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on after this. But hopefully I get to stick around for a little bit,” he said.

  1. Drew - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    Ross gave us a tantalizing glimpse and Turner arrives next week – to pair with Difo at Harrisburg, I hope.

    Meantime, Harper is 26 homers from reaching 100 at age 22.

    He’s 681 from Henry Aaron.

  2. Karl Kolchak - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:23 PM

    The Nats literally have no other choice but to dance with those that brung them…so to speak. Other than Difo and soon Turner, there are no other options as far as position players in their minor league system, and an impact trade (assuming those two plus Giolito are off limits) would deplete what little depth they have left (in other words, say goodbye to Cole and Ross, most likely).

    Bottom line is that Desmond and Zimmerman need to snap out of it or the Nats will struggle just to make the playoffs, let alone make any noise once they get there.

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:04 PM

      Are you talking about 2015 only? Because it’s always about pitching and aside from the outfield with Taylor being developed, I’m not sure what you are talking about.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:01 PM

        Add in Reynaldo Lopez, Fedde, Reetz, Cole, Ward, Voth, and Severino and there’s 10 studs or is that 12 as my count could be off.

  3. ArVAFan - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:24 PM

    So, is it the consensus of this august board that I should add a “Joe Ross debut ball” to my collection of balls from significant events in Nats history? Or should I wait for his first home win? (we’re not talking a major investment here–I’m sure balls from this game will sell for the minimum, if at all. Well, unless Bryce hit it. Then the price tag has another digit.)

    • natsfan1a - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:48 PM

      If it was me, I’d go for the debut ball.

      Wish our guys could have mustered enough runs to get him a win. Oh well. Was cool seeing his bro and family in the stands.

  4. David Proctor - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:53 PM

    Looking at the schedule, Zimmermann could pitch on normal rest on Friday, but we’re still going to need a spot starter for Saturday in Milwaukee (assuming Fister needs more than one rehab game and doesn’t pitch that game). Zimmermann tomorrow, off day, Scherzer Tuesday in NY, Gio Wednesday in NY, Roark Thursday in Milwaukee, Zimmermann Friday in Milwaukee and then the spot start.

  5. laddieblahblah - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    Something is wrong with Ryan Zimmerman. He has zero confidence and you can see why. Everything he hits is weak. Ghost is surely right about about his bat speed. His presence in the lineup is hurting the team. I hope he can recover and come back strong, but he is not the Ryan Zimmerman we have been cheering for since 2005.

    Span is not the same, either, since coming back from the DL. Denard, like Zim, has played through injuries before, and he seems to me to be playing through one now.

    Matt has Taylor and Moore. They are not Span and Zimmerman, but neither are Span and Zimmerman, at present. At least Michael A. and Tyler are healthy.

    I think they are going to play Desmond, no matter what, and hope the Yankees come calling before the July trade deadline. If Rizzo can get something of value then, my guess is that he will take it. Matt can then plug in either Escobar or Espinosa at SS, and use either Espinosa or Uggla at 2nd. It will be August by then, and they can call Difo up a few weeks early as the 2nd IF bench guy. Matt has viable options for the IF.

    Injuries are killing the offense. And injuries aren’t doing much for the rotation, either. Ross looked good today, and Treinen has been a kiiler, lately. Rivero with 3 shutout innings, too. They have some really good young arms to help with both the rotation and the pen.

    But, in the meantime, Matt has got some real problems with the offense at 1b, SS, LF and CF (until Span regains his mojo). And if Denard sits, there is no one who can lead off.

    It figures to be a tough stretch for the team and its field manager, and there is probably not much that Rizzo can do between now and the trade deadline.

    • David Proctor - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:29 PM

      Span’s in a little bit of a slump right now, but he has an .800 OPS compared to his .750 career OPS. He made an incredible defensive play yesterday. I’m not sure what you mean about him not being the same, other than that he’s not stealing bases. Heck, he even has five homers. His ABs have been good. I really see nothing wrong with Span, that seems like an odd observation. What are you seeing different from him?

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:56 PM

        I agree with you, David. I think that Span’s demise is greatly exaggerated. Defensively he has had two web gems in the past week. He has came through with RBI’s, too, not normally his forté. There are holes much worse than Denard Span right now.

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:07 PM

        Yup. The home run bug seems to have created a pop up and routine fly ball monster.

        Dennard needs to start squaring the ball up.

      • npb99 - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:08 PM

        David is correct. Span may be in a mini-slump but he’s had a solid year so far. RZ has been a huge disappointment. He has a decent number of RBIs, but those won’t project out to season’s end if he’s hitting .220 with little power. He just looks terrible, slow and old.

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:46 PM

        David, Span has been striking out at an unusual (for him) pace. That is unusual. He is not swinging with the same authority as he usually does. All you have to do is look, and you will see. His OPS is largely derived from his performance before he went on the DL for the 2nd time.

        What is his OPS since returning?

        Has he been on base and has he had enough hits to even register an OPS since then? That’s what I am talking. about. Whether you use the eye test or do the numbers, the story is the same.

      • David Proctor - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:24 PM

        Span never went on the DL a second time. If you mean since he sat out a couple games with the sore knee, it’s been all of 4 games. How can you possibly judge that? He has struck out 9.5% of the time this year. His career strikeout rate is 11.5%. Last year, it was 9.7%. He’s in a mini-slump, I said that myself, but I don’t understand how you can possibly say he’s not the same because he’s been cold for all of four games.

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:49 PM

        “I think that Span’s demise is greatly exaggerated.”

        Indeed it would be, if anyone were making such an assertion. Can you identify where and from whom you saw it made?

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:35 PM

        laddie, it was a figure of speech used to address quotes that he is “scuffling,” etc. and needs to be moved out of the lead off spot. Like David said, he is at worst in a mini slump, at least at this point, which I believe to be partially caused by his uncharacteristic homers, as Nats jack alluded to.

    • natsguy - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:19 PM

      Unless he gets a shoulder transplant it will only get worse.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:21 PM

      Jack, I agree that Span has been getting too much air under his hits, but he’ll be fine. I don’t see him stealing many bases right now, but calls for Yunel to lead off are silly, imho. ( almost as silly as telling me that a guy hitting .190 is really fine, he just suffering from unlucky BABIP.)

  6. Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:10 PM

    BTW, though there may be some truth to the Zobrist rumors, there are also reports the Yankees are in the chase. Drew as been a huge disappointment for them. Also, the Red Sox are ready to throw in the towel on Infielder moved to the outfield, Henly Ramire, and have made inquiries. That has been a total joke, though some on here said what a success it has been. Wrong!

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:16 PM

      The Boston Globe has been tearing Henley apart and now the Herald is joining in:
      http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/red_sox_mlb/boston_red_sox/2015/06/silverman_ben_cheringtons_defense_of_hanley_ramirez_wrong

    • virginiascopist - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:22 PM

      I’d imagine if Billy Beane does decide to sell, he’ll have a lot of bidders on both Zobrist (especially if he stays healthy and starts putting up good numbers) and Clippard.

      I, for one, never thought Hanley Ramirez moving to left was going to work out well. I wonder what kind of inquiries are being made.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:08 PM

        Hanley has talent and the Dodgers couldn’t wait for him to leave and that tells you all you need to know. His efforts in LF are about the same as the infield. Effort is lacking.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:21 PM

        For $88 Million, who can blame Hanley? [I guess it must be me, or is it the auto-correct? Regardless, I can’t seem to spell his name correctly] Anyway, this piece from the Globe would seem to agree with you:
        https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2015/06/05/red-sox-missed-plenty-red-flags-with-hanley-ramirez/4g45GOvQzM4Flto9hYoZiM/story.html

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:18 PM

        “The Red Sox also misjudged Ramirez’s attitude. The Marlins were happy to trade him to the Dodgers, and the Dodgers didn’t make him an offer to return as a free agent despite a good offensive season in 2014.

        Ramirez’s work ethic and commitment have long been in question. As was the case with his defense, he usually could outhit those issues. But the Dodgers, like the Marlins, had enough of his mood swings.”

        They didn’t exactly address the issue of lack of effort but I guess that’s to be read between the lines with his attitude.

        There’s a song about Hanley and the chorus goes “Go on take the money and run”

        Hanley will eventually be a DH and bench player.

  7. Eugene in Oregon - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:40 PM

    Well, not a good day for the Nats, but at least Virginia made it back to the CWS.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 7, 2015 at 6:50 AM

      Watched the last few innings of that one. Some game. Also saw FP’s Hurricanes get a curly w – or curly m? Topped it off with the Belmont. Not that I’m so much into horse racing, but that was historic.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:06 PM

    Span looked good on Friday with his last 2 at-bats. He knows what he needs to do. I’m less concerned about him.

    • Doc - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:21 PM

      Ghost, as per Zim, all your analyses and those of others seems to be spot on. This is more than a brief slump.

      It’s like MW has to find a spot in the lineup to hide him.

      Let TyMo play a few games there. I don’t know what Fangraphs says about some of TyMo’s advanced stats, but he seems to have more life in his bat than Zim.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:25 PM

        Doc, though Tyler Moore has had a few good AB’s, i’m not so sure that his .190 BA is all that misleading, but I agree that Zim has “earned” at least a couple of days off.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:35 PM

        Ryan has to be honest and maybe he has with MW and Rizzo and they are dealing with it internally. If it’s fatigue or the shoulder or something else, MW and Rizzo need to know.

        Putting him in the 2 spot probably won’t help him see more hittable pitches because he gets plenty of those. Arrieta threw him a mistake meatball that was dead center of the zone and a straight fastball and Ryan swung through it.

        That’s scary.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    “laddieblahblah – Jun 6, 2015 at 6:13 PM
    Ghost is surely right about about his bat speed.”

    Thanks. People confuse good swings with bat speed. When you are in a slump which clearly Ryan is, it’s usually because you aren’t seeing the ball well and that’s one thing and has nothing to do with bat speed. He can snap out of the slump.

    As much as we all love Ryan, this is becoming the James Loney dilemma in which the defense is great but the offense is poor. In Loney’s career, his best OPS (more than 25 games played) was in the 7th spot.

    I’d suggest some rest and hope that helps with bat speed if it’s due to fatigue. Moving back in the order will take pressure off.

  10. manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:58 PM

    If Zim does play needs to bat the bottom of the order.

    Can Espi learn to play first.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:10 PM

      If Paul LoDuca could play 1st and LF, anyone could. Well actually Paulie wasn’t good at either. Nevermind.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:15 PM

        I was at a game where Paul LoDuca “played” LF. Not a pretty sight.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:23 PM

        He lost a game for the Nats when he didn’t catch a ball at 1st.

        I remember when Pauley would barrel up a ball and it had the HR sound and the ball flew about 310.

        I actually felt sorry for Manny Acta who I think was told to play him to showcase him for a trade.

        It had to be some of the worst baseball I can remember in Nats history. One of JimBo’s best FA signings j/k

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:08 PM

    I didn’t know Joe Ross threw a cutter. Has a nice arsenal. 4-seamer and slider are his + pitches. The changeup is the pitch that needs work. Has identical and I mean identical movement as the 4-seamer and 5 mph slower which only allowed a slow bat to get around quicker on it and there’s the problem. Of the 10 changeups he threw he induced 1 swing and miss but the Cubs got him for 2 hits on the 6 that were strikes. Not a good percentage there.

    Improve the changeup and this kid will be the real deal as his slider is deadly.

    Tyson Ross is contast throws a true sinker, 4-seam, slider and changeup and Tyson has 7 mph differential between his 4-seamer and his changeup and much different movement.

    If Tyson or someone else can teach Joe to develop his 2-seamer into a sinker and re-work that changeup, look out!

    What has me excited is that Joe could join the Nats in September and take that Stammen role. I bet in short work his 4-seamer could sizzle more and that slider is killer.

  12. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:21 PM

    Vin Scully is retelling D-Day during the LAD-Cardinals game. A real privilege if someone is a Dodgers’ fan.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 11:35 PM

      Do you like how he pronounces Pete Kozma’s name. K-oh-zma.

      He talks about D-Day and segues to Tom Selleck the actor as Dwight Eisenhower. Only Vin!

  13. manassasnatsfan - Jun 7, 2015 at 12:59 AM

    I watched the Dodgers beat Cards 2-0

    Then watched the adBacks hut a 2 run homer to beat the Mets 2-1.

    Nats still in first.

    Goldschmidt now has been intentionally waked 15 times. DBack’s next batter is 0 for 13 with 2 walks.

    That is even worse Zim batting after you.

  14. Another_Sam - Jun 7, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    I sat in a different section yesterday – 114. Seemed to be 80% Cubs fans. 👎

  15. Joe Seamhead - Jun 7, 2015 at 7:23 AM

    There were a lot of Cubs fans there overall on Friday night, too, Sam.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 7, 2015 at 7:39 AM

      They always seem to draw, like the Cards.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:27 AM

      There were Cubs fans throughout the park, based on the cheering and the t-shirts. But polite–I didn’t even hear any trash talking.

      If proof were ever needed that hope springs eternal in the human breast, I’ve got two words for you: “Cubs fans.”

      • Doc - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:52 AM

        It’s true what you say about Cubbie fans. They’re different, but good.

        Some cross-pollination with Phithy Phans should be considered.

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:52 AM

      There are a lot of closet Cubs fans in this town. When I had season tickets that first season in Nats Park, there were two nice young ladies who had the seats next to me. They would always be decked out in Nats gear. Then, all of a sudden the Cubs came to town and they showed up wearing Cubbie blue. Boy, were they bummed when Wil Nieves hit that walkoff homer!

      And of course there’s the archetype of the Cub fan masquerading as a supporter of another team, George F. Will. This is what Red Sox fans were like before 2004. We didn’t witness it here because we had no team. If the Cubs ever win it all, watch out!

  16. natsjackinfl - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    So it’s official. The Mets have scrapped their 6 man rotation thing and are sending Dillon Gee to the bullpen.

    That sure didn’t last long.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:59 AM

      How quick was that. 1 time around in a 6 man rotation and all the discussion and scrapped after the pros/cons were weighed. It only made sense to extend Harvey’s season but not for the rest of the rotation. If you haven’t checked, Harvey has had some tough outings lately.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Jun 7, 2015 at 9:09 AM

        I think the fail point with the six-man rotation is the two bullpens between starts. You can’t toss out career-long training regimens and not expect blow-back. I think six-man rotations may be the path of the future, to protect arms, but a lot more thinking about how pitchers are handled between starts — and an organization-wide commitment to the six-man rotation — is necessary.

  17. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 7, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Cubs fans go to the park for the game. They have learned to appreciate the game without winning. They don’t even take out their frustrations on their own team. They can plunk down their $30 and enjoy themselves whether the Cubs win or lose. The only person who has been made unwelcome at Wrigley Field is Bartman.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 7, 2015 at 9:30 AM

      I spent weeks at a time in the late 90’s in Chicago. I enjoyed watching games in Wrigley. A very young crowd back in those days.

      • ArVAFan - Jun 7, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        I think I met those same fans over the last couple of years–now middle aged, with their children and grandchildren in Cubs gear. Actually attended a Cubs game when they were playing the Padres–it was fun to cheer the home team in another stadium. The Cubs won, so I could legitimately sing along with the fans at the end of the game. Wait, does that make me a “closet Cubs fan?” OK, guilty.

  18. Toot D. Blan - Jun 7, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    Once again Svrluga is on top of the situation. Unfortunately, though, the Nats DIDN’T win yesterday. Will the pushed-back 4:00 start make a difference this time around?

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