Joe Ross

Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman among list of MLB players opting out of 2020 season

Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman among list of MLB players opting out of 2020 season

Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Monday afternoon that as of then, no player on the Phillies' 54-man player pool had opted out of the season. 

Shortly thereafter, news broke that two Washington Nationals players, Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross, had opted out of the season "for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones."

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake and Rockies infielder/outfielder Ian Desmond also opted out. The Phillies are not slated to play either NL West team this season so it has little to no impact on them, but they do play the Nationals 10 times.

All four players are sacrificing their prorated 2020 salaries to opt out. Only players deemed high-risk for contracting COVID-19 earn full prorated pay and service time when opting out of the season.

Zimmerman has been a Nationals staple for 15 years. He's Mr. National. His role has diminished over the last two seasons, however. Zimmerman has totaled just 513 plate appearances over the last two years, hitting .261/.331/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI.

In a statement, Zimmerman made clear that he is not retiring and plans to try to play in 2021. An NL East lifer, Zimmerman is a career .270 hitter against the Phillies with a .799 OPS, 27 homers and 111 RBI in 197 games.

Zimmerman was slated to play some first base in a platoon with Eric Thames and also would have seen time as the Nats' DH. Without him, Washington's lineup could look like this:

1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Adam Eaton, RF
3. Howie Kendrick, DH
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Eric Thames, 1B
6. Starlin Castro, 2B
7. Victor Robles, CF
8. Yan Gomes, C
9. Carter Kieboom, 3B

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Ross was set to battle for the Nats' fifth starter job. He's made starts for the Nationals in each of the last five seasons, posting a 4.29 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 335⅓ innings. He made three excellent starts against the Phillies in 2016, going 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA, but a much-improved Phillies offense in 2019 lit him up in a relief appearance, scoring five runs as Ross collected just one out.

With Ross out of the mix, the Nats' likeliest fifth starter is Erick Fedde.

It is unlikely that these are the only four players who will opt out of the 2020 season. The absence of key players will provide yet another unique element to this challenging 60-game season ahead.

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MLB Notes: Red Sox cut losses, designate Pablo Sandoval for assignment

MLB Notes: Red Sox cut losses, designate Pablo Sandoval for assignment

BOSTON -- Panda-mania is over in Boston before it ever really began.

The Red Sox designated third baseman Pablo Sandoval for assignment on Friday, cutting their losses on the $95 million free agent who was never productive or healthy enough to replicate the popularity -- or World Series success -- he had in San Francisco.

The Red Sox have seven days to trade or release the 30-year-old Sandoval, who was activated from the disabled list (inner ear infection) and returned from an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Unless they can find a taker for part of his salary, they will have paid $95 million for a total of 161 games, 575 at-bats, 136 hits and 14 homers -- and not a single one of them in the postseason.

"It really came down to us feeling we were not a better club if he was on our club at the major league level," Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said (see full story).

Yankees: Pineda mulling options for tear in pitching elbow
BOSTON -- New York starting pitcher Michael Pineda is mulling over what could be season-ending surgery after being diagnosed with a partial ligament tear in his pitching elbow.

General manager Brian Cashman also said Friday that first baseman Greg Bird could require surgery for a right ankle issue that hasn't responded to a cortisone shot. Garrett Cooper, who was acquired Thursday in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, was scheduled to start at first on Friday night as New York opened a four-game series with the rival Boston Red Sox.

Pineda was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday for the ulnar collateral ligament injury and Cashman said it was the recommendation of the team for him to undergo Tommy John surgery.

But Pineda's intent is to get a second opinion before deciding whether to undergo surgery. Bird, who has already had a cortisone shot on the foot, may have a second shot or face surgery. Cashman said the surgery would mean a six- to eight-week recovery period.

Pineda first complained of an elbow issue following an appearance prior to the All-Star break. His last start was July 5 against Toronto. He lasted just four innings in that game outing, giving up five runs and nine hits (see full story).

Nationals: Closer Ross goes on DL with sore elbow
CINCINNATI -- The Washington Nationals put right-hander Joe Ross on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained elbow on Friday and revamped their bullpen for a series against the Reds.

Ross went 2-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his last four starts before the injury. He's 5-3 overall with a 5.01 ERA in 13 starts.

The Nationals also called up relievers Austin Adams and Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Left-hander Sammy Solis was optioned to Syracuse.

Adams was acquired from the Angels in the offseason will be making his major league debut. Gott makes his second appearance with the Nationals this season. Solis was reinstated on July 1 after missing 65 games with a sore elbow and appeared in four games, giving up eight runs.

Brewers: Team looks to maintain lead in NL Central
MILWAUKEE -- Eric Thames looked up at the television near his locker in the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse in time to hear baseball analysts heaping praise on one of the majors' most surprising teams.

The Brewers aren't a secret anymore, not with a 5 1/2-game lead in the National League Central at the All-Star break.

"It's good to see on TV, the press, everyone starting to realize that the team's a force to be reckoned with," Thames said with a smile Thursday before an early-evening team workout at Miller Park "I'm digging it. I'm ready to start the second half."

It has been quite a season for a club that was supposed to be in the second full year of a rebuilding project. At 50-41, Milwaukee is in first place at the break for the fifth time in franchise history, and the first time since 2014.

Most of the key pieces from the 2014 team that collapsed in the second half were traded away or let go over the past couple of years, including Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez. The Brewers entered this season with a young, mainly unproven roster surrounding outfielder Ryan Braun and second baseman Jonathan Villar.

The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs were expected to roll to another division title. But the Cubs have struggled, as have another perceived contender, the St. Louis Cardinals. Those teams are tied for second behind Milwaukee (see full story).

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: 3rd time the charm against Nats, Joe Ross?

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: 3rd time the charm against Nats, Joe Ross?

Phillies (29-33) at Nationals (38-24)
4:05 p.m. on CSN

After an ugly 8-0 loss Saturday, the Phillies turn to Adam Morgan as they try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

Here are five things to know for Sunday afternoon's tilt:

1. Road and overall woes
After going 3-7 on their recent 10-game homestand, the Phils haven't had any more luck to start their five-game road trip. Saturday's loss clinched a third straight road series loss and a fifth consecutive road defeat. So far, this series has certainly been a far cry from the three-game sweep of the Nationals in D.C. in late April.

The first two games against the Nats have followed the Phillies' recent trend: Struggles in the starting rotation and not nearly enough offense to make up for it. Even the Phillies' most consistent starter, Aaron Nola, fell victim to a strong Nationals offense Saturday, as he lasted just 3⅔ innings, his shortest outing of his career. 

The Nationals, meanwhile, are as hot as the Phillies are cold. They've now won five of their last six games, scoring eight or more runs in all five victories. After injuries derailed the Nats' offense last season, the NL East leaders are now first in the National League with 85 home runs and fourth with a .428 slugging percentage. 

The Phillies' offense is the second-worst in the NL with just 198 runs and a .365 team slugging percentage. 

2. Third time's the charm?
The Phils' struggling offense will have a tough task with young right-handed starter Joe Ross. The 23-year-old dominated the Phillies in two starts at Citizens Bank Park earlier this season, picking up wins on April 15 and May 31. He lasted at least seven innings and gave up just three hits in both starts, allowing just one run total.

Despite his success against the Phillies, Ross has cooled off slightly after a hot start to the season. He sported a 1.23 ERA after five starts, but his ERA is now 2.92. In his most recent outing, he lasted just four innings while surrendering five runs to the Chicago White Sox. Part of his recent struggles are from an increase in home runs, giving up five in his last six starts after allowing none in his first five.

Sunday's game will be just the 25th start of Ross' burgeoning career. The younger brother of Padres starter Tyson Ross, Joe Ross is expected to be a staple of the Nationals' rotation moving forward, so the Phillies will need to start hitting him at some point.

3. Back end of the rotation
If the Phillies are going to get back toward .500, they'll need a lot more out of Morgan and the bottom of their rotation. Morgan, who challenged for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training, has been well below average since getting called up in late April.

However, after his ERA ballooned to 7.07 after giving up six runs to the Nationals on June 1, he bounced back with a gutsy performance against the Chicago Cubs his last time out. He gave up eight hits but held the MLB-best Cubs to just three runs in six innings. 

The Phils hope that quality start may be enough to get Morgan going. The 26-year-old lefty was better last season, pitching to a 4.48 ERA. More ugly outings like his last one against the Nats could make the front office consider calling up a prospect or two.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: While other parts of the offense have gone cold, Odubel Herrera keeps hitting. He has a .333 batting average in his last seven games. His .421 on-base percentage is fourth in all of baseball.

Nationals: Starting catcher Wilson Ramos has been hot this season. His .343 batting average, .396 OBP and .564 SLG are tops for catchers with at least 100 at-bats and his nine homers are tied with Milwaukee Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy for the MLB lead among catchers.

5. This and that
• Ramos went 3 for 3 last week against Morgan with a home run and four RBIs.

• Herrera is 1 for 4 against Ross with two walks. Ryan Howard and Maikel Franco are both 0 for 6 against Ross.

• The Phillies have not won a series since taking two of three against the Miami Marlins on May 16-18. That run includes seven series, not including a four-game split with the Brewers earlier this month.

• The Nationals have never won six straight games in one season against the Phillies since the franchise moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005.