Ross appears likely to avoid surgery

August 17th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals received encouraging news on : The right-hander will not require surgery after he sustained a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Saturday, when he threw a scheduled bullpen session.

Following an evaluation in Texas by Dr. Keith Meister, who performed Ross' Tommy John surgery in 2017, Ross was diagnosed with a sprain.

“I deem that good news,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Tuesday.

Ross will not pitch again this season while he rests, then he'll go through treatment and extensive rehab. The goal is to be ready for Spring Training.

“It’s never easy, especially for a young kid like Joe [who has gone] through what he’s gone through already, to shut him down for any reason,” Martinez said. “He was upset about it. But when I talk to him, I need to reiterate, ‘Hey, this is great news, it’s headed in a positive direction,' and he has to look at it like that.”

The Nationals have been extra cautious with Ross' health and workload this season after he had Tommy John surgery, then opted not to pitch in 2020.

But on Sunday morning, Ross was placed on the 10-day injured list. He experienced right forearm tightness following his scheduled bullpen session of 28 to 30 pitches, after which he told the team he felt “weird.”

Ross was evaluated by Nationals orthopedist Dr. Robert Najarian. Following a flexor pronator strain diagnosis, Ross had an MRI, which revealed the partial tear. The next step was traveling for a reevaluation by Meister.

Ross, 28, earned a full-time starting role with the Nationals in his sixth season. He is 5-9 with a 4.17 ERA over 108 innings in his 19 starts and one relief appearance this season. The team had anticipated he might need time off at some point this year to benefit his arm, and it paid close attention to any injuries or discomfort. This included Ross being placed on the IL for 13 games in July because of right elbow inflammation.

“There was a fine line between because of one, he sat out last year, [and] two, he wants to compete,” Martinez said Sunday. “By the conversations that we had with Joe and we always have with Joe, he felt good. He had little issues where we shut him down right away, and [then] he came back and he said he felt great.

“We’re at the point now where we did everything we can to keep him healthy. But for me, you can’t ever predict injuries -- they just happen. That’s the troubling part of it.”

With upcoming off-days on Thursday and Monday, the Nats’ starting pitching is covered this week in Ross’ absence. After that, they will reassess their options, which could include left-hander Sean Nolin.