On Monday in Baltimore, the Nationals had what seemed at the time like bleak news to share about Joe Ross, that time was running out for him to do a minor league rehab assignment, that he may have to instead return out of their bullpen to build his innings up. He hadn't thrown a bullpen session yet and the minor league regular season schedule was running out.
Then, on Tuesday, he threw a bullpen session, finally for the first time since he was pulled from his original minor league rehab stint on Aug. 5. Then, on Thursday he threw another, this time under the watchful eye of manager Dusty Baker, who now believes Ross may, in fact, be ready to go join one of their affiliates very soon.
How about that for a turn of events? Ross and the Nats have done nearly a complete 180, but it has him now heading in the right direction and the team will certainly take it.
"He threw quite a while. I could just tell by the expression on his face that he was feeling pretty good," Baker said. "He's been working tirelessly. Boy, we've missed him when he's been out."
When and where Ross pitches next will be determined by how he feels on Friday, how his right shoulder responds to the second bullpen session. He has been out since July 3 with shoulder inflammation.
He pitched twice in the minors - once for Hagerstown and once for Syracuse - but couldn't shake the discomfort in his shoulder. His velocity remained lower than it should be and Ross could tell something was wrong.
Ross said he felt great after Tuesday's bullpen and feels that this time is different. Baker himself is encouraged by the young right-hander's progress.
"It's coming out pretty easy. I asked him how he felt afterwards and he said he felt good, the ball was coming out pretty good," he said.
Baker is ready to get Ross back as soon as possible, knowing how much his rotation has been hurt by his absence.
"When he was in, we had one of the best rotations in baseball one through five. Then, in Joe's absence, we've tried a number of guys there with some success and some not so successful. It's put some pressure on the bullpen and it'd be nice to get Joe back," he said.
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