AUGUST 17: Ross will not need to undergo Tommy John surgery, Martinez told reporters (including Maria Torres of the Athletic). He won’t pitch again this season, but Martinez expressed hope he could be ready for Spring Training in 2022.
AUGUST 15: An MRI has revealed a partial UCL tear in Joe Ross’s right elbow, per Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. Nationals manager Dave Martinez says Tommy John surgery is possible but hasn’t been decided on definitively. The righty has already undergone the procedure once before, back in 2017. Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post notes that he is going to see the same doctor who performed that surgery to determine how to proceed.
Whether the surgery is the chosen path or not, this is an unfortunate diagnosis for Ross, one of the few notable Nationals players that wasn’t traded at the deadline. One way or another, he is now sure to miss some significant time. He has thrown 108 innings this year with an ERA of 4.17, with strikeout and walk rate both slightly better than league average, at 23.7% and 7.4%, respectively. His 1.4 fWAR is the most of any Nationals pitcher this year who is still on the team. He’s currently on track to be a free agent after the 2022 season. But it’s now possible the team will not tender him a contract, given that there’s a chance he could miss the entire year.
For the team, this further diminishes a rotation that has lost Max Scherzer and Jon Lester to trades, as well as Stephen Strasburg to thoracic outlet surgery. Martinez says that Sean Nolin could potentially get another start in Ross’s absence, per Dougherty.
With Ross going on the IL, Lane Thomas is taking his place on the roster, also per Dougherty. Acquired from the Cardinals in the Jon Lester trade, Thomas is a 25-year-old outfielder. He got into 32 games for St. Louis this year, with a paltry slash line of .104/.259/.125. But his Triple-A numbers are much better on the season, slashing .278/.343/.476.