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Joe Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen

Joe Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen

It turns out Joe Ross may be closer to returning than originally thought, or at least closer than it seemed on Monday. On Tuesday, Ross took a big step in his recovery from right shoulder inflammation by throwing a bullpen session in Baltimore at Camden Yards.

That was a step Ross waited weeks to take and, though it was only about 30 pitches, the right-hander felt great coming out of it and now has a potential return in much clearer focus.

"The head trainer, Paul Lessard, he came in and gave me the thumbs up," manager Dusty Baker said. "I know Joe has been champing at the bit and it was very successful. He said he didn't feel anything. Hopefully we can put him back to work here pretty soon."

"It feels really good, that's why I'm pretty excited," Ross said. "I finally got to throw off the mound and it's feeling good. Hopefully it feels good from here."

Ross hopes to throw another bullpen session this week and then increase his workload up from there. As for when he will return, that has not been determined.

"I don't know exactly how long, but I want to get back on the mound as soon as possible. I'm feeling better. That's what I'm working towards," he said.

Ross, though, could return sooner than under usual circumstances, as the Nats may be inclined to skip a minor league rehab assignment and instead have him rejoin them as a reliever. He could build his innings that way and eventually return to the rotation some time in September.

"It makes sense," Ross said. "I know the season's coming to an end for the minor league side. So if that what we've got to do, that's what we've got to do. I mean, I'd just be happy being out there pitching. I'll take whatever role I can get for now. But obviously want to try to get back to starting in September, mid-September. That's the goal."

Baker thinks having Ross pitch out of the bullpen could also come in handy later on.

"We're in the middle of a pennant race. I haven't talked to Mike [Rizzo] about it or anything, I just talked to Joe about it. I just didn't want him surprised that that was the case. We want him if possible, if he's ready, on the playoff roster. That's always a possibility for a fourth or fifth starter to be in the bullpen, anyways. So, we'll see. We'll see how his progress comes," he said.

Ross hasn't pitched in the majors since July 2. He hasn't pitched in a game since July 30, when he appeared with the Triple-A Syracuse.

[RELATED: Nats place Strasburg on DL with elbow injury]

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NL East: Noah Syndergaard wants people to spell his name correctly

NL East: Noah Syndergaard wants people to spell his name correctly

One of the New York Mets' top starting pitchers wants you to know something: His name is spelled Noah Syndergaard. That's S-y-n-d-e-r-g-a-a-r-d. 

Apparently, it's something that's been tripping up a lot of folks lately, and the 23-year-old right hander has had enough. Syndergaard posted a tweet Monday calling out the MLB Shop Mets team store for selling jerseys that ready "SYNEDGAARD" on the back. 

https://twitter.com/Noahsyndergaard/status/767817968067551232?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

As you can imagine, he was less than amused. What's even more, this is the second time in consecutive months that there's been an error. Check out the tweet below at the All-Star Game. 

https://twitter.com/Noahsyndergaard/status/752927425151930368?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Luckily, the nickname "Thor" has caught on in the Big Apple. Maybe they should sell jerseys with that on the back instead.

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Reynaldo Lopez starts opposite Kevin Gausman as Nats play at Orioles

Reynaldo Lopez starts opposite Kevin Gausman as Nats play at Orioles

Nats (73-51) at Orioles (68-56) at Turner Field

Reynaldo Lopez (2-1, 4.37) has been a lifesaver for the Nationals in his last two starts with just two earned runs surrendered across 14 innings. He's helped out their ailing starting rotation and their bullpen, which has been overworked in recent weeks.

Both of those outings, though, came against the last-place Atlanta Braves. On Tuesday night, Lopez will face a much tougher test in the Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards is not a friendly place for pitchers and Lopez again will be counted on to go deep to help the rest of the Nationals' staff.

Lopez will go opposite another talented young right-hander in Orioles starter Kevin Gausman (4-10, 4.11). A former fourth overall pick, Gausman has a 9.14 strikeout-per-nine rate this season.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Reynaldo Lopez vs. Orioles - Kevin Gausman

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Clint Robinson
SS Danny Espinosa
(RHP Reynaldo Lopez)

ORIOLES

CF Adam Jones
LF Steve Pearce
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
RF Mark Trumbo
2B Jonathan Schoop
DH Pedro Alvarez
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
(RHP Kevin Gausman)

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