WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If he can stay healthy, Joe Ross could be a valuable back-of-the-rotation starter for the Nationals this season. The 23-year-old right-hander showed that Sunday in the Nationals' 5-4 walk-off Grapefruit League win over the Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Ross tossed four shutout innings, allowing only two hits in lowering his ERA this spring to 2.08 in 8 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one on Sunday.
"I felt like my mechanics were a lot better this outing than the last one," said Ross, who gave up both of his earned runs this spring against the Red Sox on March 7. "My command seemed a lot better, too. I got a little tired towards the end, but other than that, I was pretty happy about the way it went."
Ross was shelved with right shoulder inflammation for two months last season, when he posted a 7-5 record and a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts. He said he has been working on his mechanics during Spring Training and that he's feeling more confident about using his changeup more often.
His batterymate on Sunday was recently signed Matt Wieters, who made his Nationals debut after spending the past eight years with the Orioles.
"He called a good game," Ross said of Wieters, who went hitless in two at-bats. "Some late-in-the-count offspeed pitches that I wanted to throw, he called right away, so I didn't have to shake through those. Overall, it felt good. We're on the same page for the most part. We've got three more weeks, so I'm sure we'll kind of build that relationship as we go. Overall, he's a big presence behind the plate."