Ross throws first 'pen session since shutdown

Ross throws first 'pen session since shutdown

BALTIMORE -- Nationals right-hander Joe Ross threw a bullpen session Tuesday afternoon at Camden Yards, his first time throwing off the mound since he was pulled off a Minor League rehab assignment earlier this month.

Ross, who has not pitched in the Majors since July 2 because of right shoulder inflammation, came away excited about the way his arm and shoulder felt after tossing about 25 pitches. He had made two Minor League rehab starts in late July before more soreness in his shoulder forced the Nats to shut him down.

"That extra time I think gave me a little kick-start the second time around," Ross said.

Tuesday represented an encouraging step forward for Ross as he tries to work his way back to the Nationals' pitching staff. A day earlier, manager Dusty Baker mentioned that with the Minor League season near its end, perhaps Ross could return this season in a bullpen role to help build his innings and get him back on the mound sooner.

"Makes sense," Ross said. "The season is coming to an end in a few days for the Minor League side, so if that's what I got to do, that's what I'll do. I'd be happy to be out there pitching finally, so I'll take whatever role I can get right now. But obviously trying to get back to starting in September, through September, that's the goal for myself."

Before the injury, Ross was establishing himself as one of the best young pitchers in baseball with a 3.49 ERA in 16 starts this season. The Nationals have followed the same rehab plan for Ross since his shutdown, and they are hoping the shoulder continues to respond. While neither the Nats nor Ross expected his recovery to take so long, they are glad the end is possibly in sight.

"That's just what's been tough, is just the time that I've been out for," Ross said. "Getting to travel is good, but it makes me want to be out there even more sitting on the bench watching every game.

"We've been playing really well, so it's been fun, but I want to get out there and contribute and do what I can. But I'm glad I'm almost back, so not really looking back on that right now."

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.