Ross (back) placed on IL as Crew's rotation takes another hit

May 21st, 2024

MIAMI -- It wasn’t exactly the birthday present expected -- or one he ever wanted. Less than 24 hours after Ross exited after just one inning (15 pitches) due to a low back strain, the Brewers placed the right-hander on the 15-day injured list.

To help fill the void in the rotation, Milwaukee recalled from Triple-A Nashville. Myers has a 1.45 ERA in the Minors (five outings, three starts) and a 5.29 ERA in the Majors (four starts) this year.

After Milwaukee's 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Marlins on Monday night, Ross had expressed his hope that he could avoid an IL stint, but he was also realistic.

“It’s definitely frustrating, whether we’re having a lot of [injuries] or not,” Ross said after the game. “I’ll see what I can do tomorrow so that we can start feeling better. ... But you know, we’ll see what happens.”

On Tuesday morning, Ross was feeling alright, but his back was still tight -- fairly similar to the previous day and “kind of sore” when he moved in certain directions. Ross hasn’t dealt with low back problems before -- at least not pitching-related (he indicated he’s felt some back issues in the weight room before, but that’s different).

Prior to Monday’s start, Ross’ back had been feeling stiff. He let the coaching staff know pregame that his low back was tight, but he wanted to pitch through it -- even during his bullpen session, Ross didn’t feel 100 percent.

Part of what impacted Ross’ back was the slope of the mound; the tightness was also aggravated after his last pitch of the inning, an 83.5 mph slider that induced a double play, but which required him to hustle off the mound and cover first base.

“He said he wasn’t feeling great,” skipper Pat Murphy said. “He said, ‘I can go back out there if you want me to, but I’m not feeling great. I’m not sure I can extend.’ So we thought it was in the best interest to get him out of there.”

While the injury is not good news, it should be seen as somewhat of a relief that it was his back and not his arm that was hurting. Ross underwent his second Tommy John surgery in 2022 (also in 2017) and returned to the mound at the end of last year.

“I think just the slope of the mound and stuff like that was making it a bit worse,” Ross said. “I mean, my arm felt fine, I was feeling good, it was just getting more aggravated through the first inning.”

This season was supposed to be his path back to success when he signed a one-year deal with the Brewers on Dec. 12.

This bump is the latest hurdle for Ross to clear, after starting the season with a 5.40 ERA over five starts in April. He has since lowered that number to 4.50, posting a 3.18 ERA (six earned runs over 17 innings) in four May starts. He also walked just four batters in May, compared to his 12 walks in April.

“Definitely frustrating, you know? I feel like I was throwing well, and [it’s] not really like an arm-related thing,” Ross said on Tuesday. “For pitchers, as long as your arm feels OK, you usually feel pretty good to go. So yeah, just frustrating. I want to be out there and want to pitch when my name gets called.

“You never want to miss any time with stuff like that. I feel like we've been playing really well, so I’d like to do my part to try and help with that and try to, you know, help us win some games. So hopefully I'll be back soon enough, I guess.”

Ross’ loss is a big hit to the Brewers, too, who already have four starters on the injured list: DL Hall (15-day, left knee sprain) is expected to return within the next month; Jakob Junis (60-day, head and right shoulder) is eyeing a June return; Wade Miley and Brandon Woodruff (60-day, Tommy John surgery) are both unlikely to return this year, though Woodruff could possibly be back on the mound by the end of the season.

Milwaukee is hopeful Ross’ IL stint will be short, though back issues have a tendency to be unpredictable. For now, they have Myers back in the Majors and some bullpen depth to play with in Bradley Blalock, who was recalled on Monday.

“We’ve had some adversity; this team’s used to it,” Murphy said pregame Tuesday. “Luckily the front office has provided us with enough depth with other guys that we just -- the next guy steps up, and they’ve all done [that]. Whether it’s Tobias Myers or whoever it’s been, they’ve all stood up when it was [their] time.”