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Have we seen the last of Ross in 2015?

Sep 6, 2015, 6:13 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today

The emergence of rookie starter Joe Ross has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Nationals in a year characterized by the unforeseen. What has become a breakout season for the young right-hander, however, could be nearing its inevitable end.

The Nationals have alluded to an unspecified innings limit for Ross, whom they acquired in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres. The 22-year-old pitcher struggled again on Sunday – albeit in an 8-4 sweep-clinching win over the Braves – and manager Matt Williams spoke afterwards about signs of fatigue.

“Today starting in the third inning the fastball was down to 90,” he said. “The fact that the fastball came down is a sign that he’s tired.”

Against the Braves he lasted only 4 1/3 innings with four earned runs on five hits, three walks and zero strikeouts. It was his 13th start of the season. In his first seven outings he had 47 strikeouts to only four walks. But in his last six games he has struck out 21 and walked 16.

That could be due to a decrease in the speed on his fastball, Ross himself admits.

“I think with velocity down a little bit, it kind of affects the sharpness of my slider and changeup. All of those things kind of play a role in that,” he explained. “I can tell when it’s not jumping out of my hand. I’m just trying to execute pitches. When I try and overcompensate I can get myself in trouble.”

Ross is now at 149 2/3 innings on the season. His previous career-high was 122 1/3, set in 2013. Last season he topped out at 121 2/3 innings pitched.

With Stephen Strasburg on his way back and Tanner Roark already reinstalled in the rotation, the Nats may call it a year for Ross. He has not been the same pitcher in recent weeks, particularly in his last two outings where he has walked nine batters combined.

Williams said the Nationals could make a decision very soon on the matter.

“That’s a big discussion for us. We have to understand where he’s at and the territory he’s in and what options we have going forward. We have a few days to make those, certainly. We’ll move forward on it when we can,” he said.

Ross knows his velocity is down and that the results have not been there, but he’s not jumping to any conclusions. He will continue to operate business-as-usual until he is told otherwise. His next turn is Sept. 12 at the Miami Marlins.

“It’s late in the season so that could be a factor. I feel normal,” he said. “I feel fine. I’m ready to go pitch my next outing whenever my name is called. I guess we’ll see what happens.”

  1. natsjackinfl - Sep 6, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    In factoring in Joe’s innings pitched, keep in mind that the stress level of pitching major league innings far exceeds the level of minor league innings.

    That alone creates a fatigue level never before experienced by young Mr. Ross.

    Next year, he”ll be better prepared to handle his work load.

    • breedja - Sep 6, 2015 at 6:45 PM

      Agreed. Great job, Joe. Rest up for Feb.

      • NatsLady - Sep 6, 2015 at 6:51 PM

        Agreed. Rest and learn.

        Who was it that laughed at me for saying we have our closer of the future in Rivero? Next year he should set up for Paps (assuming Storen is traded) and in 2017 inherit his job. Who needs Chapman? (Charlie and Dave said Rivero is in Chapman territory).

  2. Nats Fan Zee - Sep 6, 2015 at 6:51 PM

    Let him rest and cut him a full share … He deserves it. Next year he will be awesome. No need to stretch his arm any more. Thanks Joe … Great job and you are a class act!

  3. Doc - Sep 6, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    RE: Rivero

    I was on alert about Rivero since Livo said that this is a kid to watch back in ST.

    His control and command do not seem to be an issue, unlike some of t he other young studs.

    • virginiascopist - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:33 PM

      Livo made the pronouncement to keep an eye on Rivero immediately after we traded for him in spring training 2014. Boy, he was right on!

  4. Section 222 - Sep 6, 2015 at 7:39 PM

    No sense in running him out there again if Stras is ready to go. I guess we’ll see about that on Wednesday. Ross has been great, but it’s time to shut him down and make sure he’s great next year too.

  5. Another_Sam - Sep 6, 2015 at 7:56 PM

    JR has my gratitude for a job well done when the staff was near crisis. Didn’t he come up from Double A? Great job, man. and you performed better that we had a right to expect.

  6. veejh - Sep 6, 2015 at 7:58 PM

    Rivero is bueno. Put him on the postseason roster, no doubt. Yes, we’ll make the postseason.

  7. rmoore446 - Sep 6, 2015 at 8:55 PM

    I completely agree that this should be it for him. Fantastic future for him and no need to risk it. Was at the game today and it was obvious he was running out of steam for the last inning and fraction. He’ll be great in the rotation next year.

  8. mdmcommish - Sep 6, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    Compare the reasoned responses and understanding on this site regarding shutting down Ross to the way Mets fans are fearing out. I realize Harvey is a bigger deal but still…..

    • Section 222 - Sep 6, 2015 at 11:32 PM

      Well, Harvey is a little more central to the Mets’ postseason hopes than Ross is to ours. But I think Nats fans were much more understanding of the decision to shut down Stras in 2012, than the Mets fans are about Harvey’s fate. That equanimity was not universally shared, however.

  9. mdmcommish - Sep 6, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    Spell check again, changed freaking to fearing, but come to think oit ” fearing” works even better.





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