Ross could return in a relief role this season

Ross could return in a relief role this season

BALTIMORE -- Nationals pitcher Joe Ross, who has been on the disabled list since July 2 with right shoulder inflammation, could pitch out of the bullpen later in the season, manager Dusty Baker said Monday.

Ross has played long toss in recent days but has yet to throw off a mound, and with the Minor League season winding to a close, he could run out of time to make a rehab start.

With that in mind, Baker said, the Nats might try Ross in a new role.

"The longer he's out, the longer it's going to take him to come back to sharpness," Baker said. "One of the things I was talking to Joe about, 'Hey man, you might have to come back in a reliever role.'"

Ross made three appearances out of the bullpen last September as the team looked to limit his innings. He allowed two hits and no runs in three innings over those outings.

Baker and general manager Mike Rizzo both said Ross is feeling good, but there is currently no plan to have him throw off a mound or begin a rehab assignment. The righty made two rehab starts in late July before suffering soreness in his shoulder and being pulled off his assignment.

If Ross returns before the end of the season and the Nats choose to deploy him in relief, the 23-year-old could help fortify a Washington bullpen that has struggled lately in the middle innings.

Ross had a 3.49 ERA in 95 1/3 innings this season before his injury.

Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.