Nats monitoring Ross without holding him back

Nats monitoring Ross without holding him back

SAN DIEGO -- Joe Ross probably could have gone deeper into his start in Friday night's 7-5 win over the Padres, but he had already thrown 96 pitches in six innings and a left-handed pinch-hitter was coming up, so manager Dusty Baker decided not to push the 23-year-old right-hander any further.

It was a small example of how the Nationals are monitoring Ross's workload this season. And while they do not have any hard innings cap in place, the team has made small yet concerted efforts this season to watch his innings.

In 2015, Ross threw 152 2/3 innings between the Minors and Majors, by far the most in his professional career. He is on pace to shatter that number this season, especially considering the Nationals currently lead the National League East and have expectations to play in the postseason.

"He's probably going to reach thresholds that he's never reached before," Baker said. "He's such a young talent. We're not babying him, but we're sort of monitoring him. We don't have a number or whatever, but we plan on going a long ways and we plan on him having a big role in some of this."

Ross struggled down the stretch in his rookie season last year, and he later said fatigue might have played a role. So Washington will be cognizant of his workload. Ross is the only Nationals starting pitcher currently averaging fewer than 100 pitches per outing, although he has had numerous outings this season where he has exceeded that mark.

"I mean, I'm aware of it, I guess, but it's not like it's really in my mind," Ross said. "Just going out there and try to pitch as deep as I can into the game. I feel like that usually depends on pitch count than anything so the more efficient I am, the more I get to pitch. That's kind of my main key so I can not give them an extra reason to pull me out of the game early."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.