The Washington Nationals began the second half of 2017 with devastating news. Promising young starter Joe Ross will require Tommy John Surgery. This ends his season and should eat into more time next year as well. Although he wasn’t pitching particularly well this year, Ross has plenty of upside and the loss is major.
As is the case any time someone undergoes Tommy John Surgery, the timetable for Ross’ return is uncertain. A lengthy rehab is required before Ross can throw another pitch. Washington will have to make due with one of their lesser options. This could change if Mike Rizzo goes out and acquires a starting pitcher. Considering Tanner Roark has been a major liability this year as well, it’s quite possible they do.
Ross’ 2017 season ends with a 5-3 record and a career-worst 5.01 ERA. He only made 13 big league starts and was often a victim of the long ball. Opposing batters hit a home run on average twice in every nine innings Ross pitched. Based on this, it’s clear why Ross struggled.
It should be interesting to see how the Nationals handle the fifth spot in their rotation. They were dismissive from the start of the year when Ross began the season in Triple-A. It’s quite possible this move messed with his confidence thus resulting in a slow start when he did eventually crack the MLB roster.
Washington will not need to figure out who gets the ball in Ross’ place until Tuesday. Until then, they will continue to get great starts from Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and Stephen Strasburg while hoping Roark fixes his issues.
Internal options the Nationals will consider include Jacob Turner, A.J. Cole, Edwin Jackson and Austin Voth. Turner has spent the most time with Washington this season while Cole is in second place with one appearance.
Jackson might be the most tempting to use due to his extensive MLB experience. He has been stellar with the Syracuse Chiefs in his first 20 1/3 innings, posting a 0.44 ERA.
Voth has underperformed all year in Triple-A and is likely not going to beat any of the other three for a roster spot.
A fifth starter may not be a priority for Washington as their bullpen issues are far larger. If they can find someone to give them a 30 percent chance at winning when that spot in the rotation comes along, the Nationals should survive the rest of 2017.