WASHINGTON -- After two encouraging bullpen sessions this week, Nationals right-hander Joe Ross will begin a Minor League rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Syracuse.
The remaining question for the Nats is whether there is enough time in the season for Ross, who has not pitched since July 2 with right shoulder inflammation, to build his pitch count up as a starter. Syracuse will play its final game on Sept. 5, and earlier this week the Nationals opened the possibility that Ross could return as a reliever instead this year.
"I don't know, that's a question that we're trying to answer now," manager Dusty Baker said. "And if not, then hopefully in the playoffs he can be on the team and help us out of the bullpen."
Washington is currently without two-fifths of its rotation, while Ross and Stephen Strasburg are on the disabled list. Ross appeared to be close to returning to the Majors after making a pair of rehab outings in late July, but his shoulder soreness returned and the Nats were forced to shut him down.
Ross posted a 3.49 ERA in 16 starts this season before he landed on the DL, so his return could benefit Washington in the rotation or bullpen.
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.