Over three weeks since Joe Ross was pulled from his minor league rehab assignment due to a setback in his recovery from right shoulder soreness, the Nats starter is still slowly making progress towards a return. He played long-toss catch on Monday afternoon at Camden Yards in Baltimore, but has yet to throw a bullpen session and appears nowhere near going back out to pitch in a minor league game.
Ross, in fact, is close to running out of time for a second rehab assignment and the Nats have already spoken to him about potentially coming back to the Nationals as a reliever. He would begin in the bullpen and build his arm strength back that way, instead of going to the minors where their regular season schedules end in a matter of weeks.
"Joe said he's feeling good," manager Dusty Baker said. "But the longer he's out the longer it's going to take him to come back to sharpness. One of the things I was talking to Joe about, 'Hey man, you might have to come back in a reliever role,' ... he's gonna have a problem getting rehab time."
GM Mike Rizzo did not sound concerned when asked about Ross' status. He described Ross as "well underway in his throwing program."
Ross, though, hasn't pitched since July 30 with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He hasn't appeared in the majors since July 2 when the Nats realized he was injured.
Ross' injury rehab was already important for the Nationals, who would like to see their 23-year-old starter back as soon as possible. But now with Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list, they could use Ross more than ever.
Rizzo, though, is not concerned about the state of the Nationals' rotation.
“I like our rotation. I think there are a lot of teams in the majors that would take our rotation. We’ve always prided ourselves on putting a guy on the mound who gives us a chance to win every day, and I think we still have that. It’s a credit to our player development and our scouting that we can bring up the talented, young starting pitchers that we bring up to fill in when something does happen to our pitchers," he said.
Ross has a 3.49 ERA through 16 starts with the Nationals this season. He was placed on the disabled list on July 3.
[RELATED: Nats place Strasburg on DL with elbow injury]
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