The Nationals revealed on Friday the team has pulled starter Joe Ross from his minor league rehab assignment due to soreness in his right shoulder, a setback for the right-hander who was nearing his return from the disabled list.
Ross, 23, has been on the DL since July 3 and made two rehab starts before he was shut down. Now the Nationals are in the process of determining his next step.
“We’re trying to figure out what to do, cause sometimes he’s still a little sore. We’ve just got to figure out exactly what to do," manager Dusty Baker said.
The good news is that Ross' velocity was back to normal before he went down again. The Nats had noticed in his last big league start on July 2 against the Reds that this velocity had dipped considerably, and that helped alert them to the issue.
The bad news, of course, is that he is not progressing as planned.
"He’s still a little sore. So you want to get that soreness out of there, plus they get to start the rehab over again," Baker said.
Ross - who holds a 3.49 ERA in 16 MLB starts this season - threw 67 pitches in his last rehab game on July 30 with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He reached 43 pitches in his previous start on July 24 with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. That was building off a 35-pitch bullpen session in the week before.
The Nats were taking their time bringing Ross back and will likely be very cautious once he goes back out again. That timeline also helps illustrate how long it may take for Ross to return from now and from when he begins his next rehab assignment.
In the meantime, the Nationals will have some decisions to make. They delayed the need for fifth starter by adjusting their rotation this weekend by essentially skipping Ross' turn instead of going back to rookies Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. The Nats also have Monday and Thursday off next week they can use to their advantage.
But with how Ross could potentially need to build his arm strength again, they will likely need to turn to a fifth starter at some point before he comes back.
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