- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2015

In need of a starter for Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals will dip back into their minor-league system, calling up right-hander Joe Ross to make his major-league debut.

Ross, 22, will be the seventh pitcher to make his first big-league start for Washington in the first two months of the season. He was acquired from the San Diego Padres this winter in the complex trade that sent Steven Souza to Tampa Bay. That deal also netted shortstop prospect Trea Turner, who was listed as a player to be named later and will be eligible to join the Nationals’ later this month.

The inclusion of Turner, a first-round draft pick in 2014, in the trade somewhat overshadowed Ross, a highly-touted prospect in his own right. Ross was the 25th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Bishop O’Dowd High School. Baseball America listed him as the No. 96 prospect in baseball entering this season.

“He was a guy we identified in the draft, before the draft, and in his early days as a minor league player,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Friday. “Our scouts did a great job of identifying him as a pro player and we made the trade for him and sent him to Double-A again. He ended last year in Double-A, we started him there this year and he’s really pitched well for us. He’s gotten better each and every start. He’s a stuff guy that throws strikes with multiple pitches and he’s prepared to take on the challenge of the big leagues at a young age.”

Ross went 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first nine starts of the season for Double-A Harrisburg. In his most recent outing last week, he allowed just three hits and one run over seven innings while striking out seven. His older brother, Tyson, pitches for the Padres.

“Reports have been good,” manager Matt Williams said of the younger Ross. “We’re excited to see him, coming from a different organization. He’s pitched very well there, though. He’s commanded the zone and done everything that’s asked of him. So he’s going to get a chance.”

Ross will become the fourth player to jump from Double-A Harrisburg to the big leagues this season, joining infielder Wilmer Difo and left-handers Sammy Solis and Felipe Rivero. Rizzo knew the right-hander would be with the Nationals soon, but not this soon.

“This has accelerated his development even a little faster than I thought he would,” Rizzo said.

To make room for Ross on the 40-man roster, the Nationals are expected to transfer one of three injured players — Reed Johnson, Craig Stammen or Jayson Werth — to the 60-day disabled list. A.J. Cole and Taylor Hill are the most likely candidates to be optioned back to the minors.

Whether Ross makes multiple starts for the Nationals this season will depend on the progress of Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister. Strasburg has played catch but not yet thrown a bullpen session. Fister is slated to begin a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday.

Regardless of how long Ross remains in Washington, getting his big-league debut out of the way will be an important step in his development. From there, Rizzo said, it’s simply a matter of accruing innings and gaining experience.

“Like a lot of 22-year-old pitchers that just have to get a feel for their craft and the only way you can get that is pitching innings,” Rizzo said. “He’s in an important stage of his career because he’s got really good stuff and he’s performed admirably at each level he’s at. And that’s one of the reasons we felt he’d be the guy, at least until some of our veteran starters get ready.”

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