Despite brief outing, Ross excited to be back
WASHINGTON -- As if Joe Ross had not waited long enough to get back on a Major League mound, 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery, he sat around for more than an hour waiting before the start of Friday night's game was delayed due to inclement weather.
So he was understandably frustrated when his first attempt at a 2018 debut was washed away after only 1 2/3 innings when Friday's game was eventually postponed due to rain.
"I was definitely excited, being back for the first time in 14 months or whatever it was," Ross said on Saturday morning. "I felt like the nerves would be more early on, before we even got delayed. I just needed to take care of business and stay ready to pitch. I didn't really know how long it was going to last, so I was just periodically stretching and keeping myself moving, stuff like that."
For the brief amount of time Ross was on the mound, he looked sharp. His fastball was clocked consistently in the upper 90s, topping out at 97 mph -- as he gave up a hit, hit a batter and struck out another in facing seven hitters. Ross attributed the uptick in velocity a bit to the excitement of his first start back, but also as further proof that his arm feels strong after rehabbing.
"The last couple games, I've been throwing hard," Ross said. "Definitely adrenaline, a little bit -- just the excitement of being back on the field and pitching in our stadium in front of our fans again. And, of course, the first batter in there was [Daniel Murphy], which was funny. Just a combination of both. But I've been feeling pretty good recently. We'll see what happens in the next start."
Even if the game had resumed, however, Ross' night would have been cut short. As soon as the second rain delay began, manager Dave Martinez told Ross his night was over, no matter what. Even though Ross waited it out and tried to stay loose for about 40 minutes after the start of the delay, the Nationals wanted to be cautious with him as he works his way back from surgery.
Despite Ross' low pitch count on Friday, he will likely have to wait another turn through the rotation, as Martinez said he wanted to keep everybody in order -- instead of bringing Ross back early for another start. But the Nats' manager liked what he saw from Ross in the brief time he was on the mound.
"He was electric," Martinez said. "That was awesome to see. Looking forward to watching him again this next outing."
Doolittle fills in as player rep for Friday's rain delay
The Nationals sent Max Scherzer home early during Friday's rain delays because he was scheduled to start on Saturday, so Sean Doolittle filled in as one of the team's player representatives and he detailed the process from Friday night. Doolittle was joined by Bryce Harper and Trea Turner from the Nationals' side to help communicate with the Cubs' representatives, Kristopher Bryant and Thomas La Stella, representing the MLB Players Association in the discussions about playing and eventually rescheduling the game.
The Cubs were content to wait out the rain and try to finish Friday's night, even if it meant resuming the game after midnight on the East Coast. The Nationals were wary, however, of playing a game so late at night on a rain-soaked field. The hyperextended left knee Harper sustained after tripping over a wet base on Aug. 12, 2017, after a long rain delay helped influence their thinking.
"So starting the game past midnight on a wet field, that has a lot of people around here really, really uneasy," Doolittle said. "I don't know if it's in the best interest of player safety. You're playing that game when you're super tired and groggy. You're playing way into the early morning hours. Then you're going to play the next game really tired, as well. So that [has a] snowball effect."
The decision lies with Major League Baseball on when to start a game, and it communicated with assistant general managers of both clubs. The players, however, have input on when the game will be rescheduled. Doolittle complimented the communication by all sides, even if it took a while to sort out all the details of the game.