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Nats prospect Ross ready to make MLB debut

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals need a starter for Saturday's game against the Cubs, and according to manager Matt Williams, right-hander Joe Ross will get the nod. Ross will become the sixth Nationals pitcher to make his Major League debut this year.

The younger brother of Padres right-hander Tyson Ross, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound righty is a lanky hurler who has a fastball that has been clocked in the low- to mid-90s, and he induces a lot of groundouts.

For Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, Ross has accelerated his development faster than he thought.

"Like a lot of 22-year-old pitchers, [they] 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."

Ross, who is the No. 4-ranked prospect in the Nationals' farm system, went a combined 10-6 with a 3.92 ERA for Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio in San Diego's organization last season, and he could be in the middle of the Nats' rotation for good in a couple of years.

"[Ross] was a guy we identified in the Draft, before the Draft and in his early days as a Minor League player," Rizzo said. "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 came from San Diego with a player to be named (Trea Turner) as part of the three-team trade that sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays and Wil Myers to the Padres in December. Ross is currently 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in nine starts for Double-A Harrisburg.

"The reports have been good," Williams said. "His last outing, he pitched seven innings, he threw 93 to 96 [mph], [allowed] three hits, [seven] strikeouts. He was in the strike zone. We are excited to see him."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
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