Ross needs Tommy John surgery

Torn lig­a­ment leaves Na­tion­als pon­der­ing op­tions for ro­ta­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JORGE CASTILLO

cincin­nati — Na­tion­als right-han­der Joe Ross has a full-thick­ness tear of the ul­nar col­lat­eral lig­a­ment in his right el­bow and will un­dergo Tommy John surgery Wed­nes­day morning, Man­ager Dusty Baker an­nounced Satur­day. The pro­ce­dure will end the 24-year-old’s sea­son and likely will cost him at least a por­tion, if not all, of the 2018 cam­paign.

Ross ex­ited his start last Sun­day at Na­tion­als Park af­ter 31/3 in­nings with what Baker called “tri­ceps ten­der­ness” af­ter his ve­loc­ity pre­cip­i­tously dropped. The dis­com­fort, how­ever, stemmed from his el­bow, and he un­der­went an MRI exam. Later in the week, for fur­ther clar­ity, he got an MRI arthro­gram, which uses dye for con­trast to ex­am­ine the in­side of a joint. The de­ci­sion was then made to have the surgery, which or­tho­pe­dist Keith Meis­ter, the Texas Rangers’ physi­cian, will per­form in Texas.

“We knew with the MRI that it was go­ing to be se­ri­ous,” Na­tion­als Gen­eral Man­ager Mike Rizzo said. “We just didn’t know to what de­gree. The arthro­gram made it very clear on what hap­pened to it.”

Ross missed time last sea­son with a shoul­der in­jury, but he hadn’t dealt with el­bow is­sues as a pro­fes­sional. He was, how­ever, shut down with el­bow trou­ble in high school, ac­cord­ing to Baker, who ad­vised Ross to ask team­mates who have un­der­gone the surgery about the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process.

“He took it as well as a young man can take it,” Baker said. “This is his first surgery. I told him — we had a long

con­ver­sa­tion to­day — and I told him that he has to go in with a pos­i­tive out­look. The first one’s al­ways tough, and I told him I had a num­ber of them. You got to be in a proac­tive ver­sus re­ac­tive [mind-set], and you have to go into things with a pos­i­tive out­look.”

Rizzo said a timetable for Ross’s re­cov­ery won’t be de­ter­mined un­til af­ter the pro­ce­dure. How­ever long it takes, the Na­tion­als will need a short-term re­place­ment start­ing Tues­day against the An­gels and prob­a­bly one to fill the void at least to be­gin the 2018 sea­son.

In the short term, Ja­cob Turner and Edwin Jackson, both of whom are with Class AAA Syra­cuse, are the like­li­est op­tions to start Tues­day in Ana­heim. Both right-han­ders pitched Thurs­day and, as a re­sult, are on turn to make the start. Turner started and logged five in­nings. Jackson en­tered in re­lief and threw three in­nings.

Turner, 26, ap­peared in 18 games, start­ing two, for the Na­tion­als be­fore he was des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment July 1 to make room for Sammy So­lis. He al­lowed six runs across 111/3 in­nings in those two starts. He had a 5.20 ERA in 272/3 in­nings out of the bullpen. In two starts since join­ing Syra­cuse, he has sur­ren­dered 10 runs, walked seven and struck out five in 72/3 in­nings.

The 33-year-old Jackson started the sea­son in the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles or­ga­ni­za­tion, pitch­ing 12 games for their AAA af­fil­i­ate be­fore get­ting called up. He ap­peared in three games for Bal­ti­more, al­low­ing seven runs (four earned) in three games be­fore he was des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment.

The Na­tion­als signed Jackson, who posted a 4.03 ERA in 31 starts for Wash­ing­ton in 2012, to a mi­nor league deal in mid-June, which Jackson can opt out of if he isn’t in the ma­jors by Aug. 1. Jackson was sent to Syra­cuse, where he didn’t give up a run in his first four starts (171/3 in­nings). He al­lowed one on five hits in his three-in­ning re­lief ap­pear­ance Thurs­day. Al­to­gether, he has a 1.77 ERA in 402/3 in­nings with 39 strike­outs and 20 walks in the mi­nors.

Baker said the Na­tion­als will de­ter­mine Tues­day’s starter Sun­day, then fly him out west be­fore the rest of the team gets there. Ross won’t be there. He will be in Texas wait­ing to un­dergo a surgery that has be­come com­mon­place across base­ball, with pitch­ers some­times com­ing back bet­ter than be­fore, though it still could de­rail a ca­reer.

Ross will re­main in Texas to stay with his older brother, Tyson, a pitcher for the Rangers who un­der­went ma­jor shoul­der surgery last Oc­to­ber. Baker said that should help him tra­verse this set­back psy­cho­log­i­cally. The man­ager hopes the can­dle he lit for Ross at a Cincin­nati church ear­lier Satur­day will, too.

“He’s go­ing to be okay,” Baker said. “He’s go­ing to be okay.”

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

The Nats’ Joe Ross will have Tommy John surgery in Texas on Wed­nes­day.

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