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Ross has solid MLB debut despite Nats loss to Cubs


Ross has solid MLB debut despite Nats loss to Cubs

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.

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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.