WASHINGTON -- When Nationals right-hander Joe Ross initially landed on the disabled list in July, he had no inclination that he would end up missing more than the next two months. And yet the right shoulder inflammation kept him out until late September, enough time to make three starts before his first career playoff start against the Dodgers.
That shoulder is back to normal, and after taking a few weeks off to let his body rest completely, Ross is back to working out on his usual offseason routine.
Ross said he could potentially do some tinkering with his mechanics and throwing program before Spring Training to get his arm prepared. After Ross missed so much time in 2016 and was shut down in '15 for fatigue, the Nationals would love to see what a full, healthy season could mean for him. His health is especially important considering the Nationals' starting pitching depth took a significant blow this offseason when the club traded Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, both of whom could have pitched in the Majors in 2017.
"I guess there's no one way to do it," Ross said about maintaining his health. "You think you've figured it out, and then you kind of miss some more time and go back and forth, but it's just a battle. You've got to stay on top of your stuff. It's unfortunate that I missed so much time last year, especially because I felt so great early in the year, so hopefully this next year I can get back on the right path and maintain that through the whole season and see where it takes me."
Through his first 10 starts this past season, Ross performed like one of the best young pitchers in the National League. He posted a 2.37 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 18 walks. He struggled at times during his final nine starts wrapped around his DL stint, posting a 4.87 ERA. His 47 strikeouts to 11 walks were still strong; however, he allowed opposing batters to post a .791 OPS.
Ross felt healthy by the time he returned for his postseason, but he still struggled in his playoff debut against the Dodgers. He allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings and later joked that there was no way to go but up.
"I think just missing so much time, I wouldn't say timing, just I didn't have -- you know, 60 days of being on the bench just kind of takes away a little bit of edge once you get back out on the mound," he said. "I just expected myself to pitch just like it was April 5-6. I think it's a big expectation after missing so much time, with such short time before the playoffs, that's kind of the pressure I was putting on myself."
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.