11:14am: The Nats have now announced the move, adding that right-hander A.J. Cole has been recalled from Syracuse to fill the vacant roster spot. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com points out (via Twitter), Cole will need to sit for three games before he’s eligible to pitch, as he still needs to complete a five-game suspension that was issued to him last year for throwing at Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang.
11:04am: The Nationals made the somewhat surprising decision to option right-hander Joe Ross to Triple-A Syracuse following yesterday’s game, per the team’s transactions page at MLB.com. While the club has yet to formally announce the move, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post confirms that Ross has indeed been optioned out, adding that right-hander Jacob Turner will join the rotation for the time being.
Ross was optioned to Triple-A to open the season as well, though that move was made largely due to the fact that the team didn’t need a fifth starter early in the year, and it also afforded the Nationals a chance to briefly limit the young righty’s innings. This move, however, is more about the Nationals’ desire for Ross to improve his changeup, according to Janes. Ross has been clobbered by lefties in three starts this season and has struggled against left-handed bats throughout his young career, yielding a .301/.374/.469 batting line to opponents that hold the platoon advantage.
That said, it’s still a bit curious to see Ross sent down. Platoon issues notwithstanding, he entered the season with a career 3.52 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and 45.5 percent ground-ball rate through 181 2/3 Major League innings. And while he’s struggled in his past two starts, one of those outings came at Coors Field. Beyond that, Turner has a limited track record in the Majors, having struggled to a 5.09 ERA through 330 innings, though Turner did show well in his own start in Colorado this season (six innings, three runs on six hits and no walks with six strikeouts).
It’s not clear if the demotion of Ross is a short-term move or if he’ll be left to sort things out in the minors for a lengthier stay. It doesn’t seem likely, however, that Ross would stay in the minors long enough to delay his path to free agency, as that’d require a Triple-A stint that spanned the majority of the season. Ross entered the 2017 campaign with one year, 94 days of service time and has already accrued 13 more days of service with his late-April promotion. As such, he needs 65 more days in the Majors to reach two full years of service time, which would keep him on pace to become a free agent following the 2021 season.
The corresponding move for Ross isn’t yet known, though Janes notes that it’ll likely be a reliever. Current options on the 40-man roster include Austin Adams, Trevor Gott and Rafael Martin, while veterans Joe Nathan and Neal Cotts are both in Syracuse on minor league deals.