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Nats' Ross ready to take next step in 2016 after strong rookie year


Nats' Ross ready to take next step in 2016 after strong rookie year

Most Nationals fans probably didn't know Joe Ross' name just one year ago when he was the second prospect acquired in a multi-team trade centered around Trea Turner, the Nats' shortstop of the future. But it was Ross, not Turner, who made the most immediate and significant impact in Washington in 2015, as the right-hander became one of the more pleasant surprises in a year categorized mostly by letdowns and disappointment.

Ross was called up in early June to help out a Nats' rotation depleted at the time by injuries. At just 22-years-old, Ross went on to set a modern MLB record with 47 strikeouts to only four walks in his first seven starts. 

Ross would come back down to Earth soon after that stretch, but ended up with impressive rookie numbers including a 3.64 ERA through 16 total outings, the final three in relief after the Nats shut him down as a starter due to innings. The Nats saw Ross getting tired in early September and, looking back, Ross says they were right.

"Towards the end I got a little tired. That was a lot more innings than I've thrown than in the past," he said. "I noticed right after the last game in New York on the bus, it just all hit me. It was like 'wow.' My legs and everything were pretty tired, and I hadn't pitched in probably a week or so."

Ross ended up throwing a total of 142 2/3 innings in 2015 spread across the majors, Double-A and Triple-A. That was over 40 innings more than his previous professional high of 122 1/3 set back in 2013.

That workload left Ross completely spent, but he thinks reaching that point will set him up well for 2016.

"It was good to get me ready for this coming year. The main way to get stronger from throwing is to push yourself and get to that limit. Hopefully next year I am in better condition to last longer throughout the year," he said.

Another thing that could produce a better Joe Ross in 2016, is if Joe simply spends more time with his family this winter. His brother, Tyson, is an All-Star pitcher for the Padres. The two are very close and Tyson even made it to Washington to watch Ross' debut at Nationals Park on June 6.

Joe gave some insight into exactly how involved his brother is in his career.

"We talk a lot... after my games mostly. He would watch a lot more of my games than I thought. He would ask me how I felt or how I felt about certain situations and then we would talk about that. He would give me his two cents and give me not just things to work on, but an opinion [on pitch selection, etc.]. I trust him. Obviously, he knows what he's talking about and he's done well so far," he said.

Ross gained a lot in 2015 both physically and mentally, and is now just ready to get started with a new year and a new season.

"I wouldn't say I'm more comfortable [than last winter], but confident having last year with some time in the big leagues. I'm just looking forward to spring training and to see how things will go," he said.

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.