A.J. Cole will start his second game for the Nationals this season on Thursday. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — The Nationals have named A.J. Cole their starting pitcher for Thursday’s Beltway Series finale against the Orioles at Nationals Park. Washington presumably chose Cole over Jacob Turner after Cole logged six innings in his first start of the season Saturday against the Phillies.

When the Nationals optioned Joe Ross to the minors to begin the season, they envisioned the right-hander returning in a couple weeks to finish the year with the major league club. Ross returned as scheduled, but the rest of the plan combusted. His arm slot dropped, leaving his slider flat. His sinker was the only other pitch he trusted. Batters feasted.

The Nationals sent him back to Class AAA Syracuse on May 2 to work through his issues. The next step was replacing him in the rotation, with Cole and Turner as the options. The Nationals waited until a few days before Saturday’s turn in the rotation to choose Cole — partly because Turner was needed for four innings out of the bullpen three days earlier.

Cole’s final numbers were encouraging — he allowed one run over six innings — but he was far from dominant. The Phillies produced plenty of loud contact off him, they ran into a few outs, and the Nationals’ defense made several standout plays behind him. Before his call-up, Cole posted a 6.63 ERA in four starts this season for Syracuse.

The Nationals have not committed to putting Cole in the rotation for the long haul. There’s still a chance Turner ends up occupying Ross’s spot because he doesn’t have any options remaining, which means Washington would either have him pitch out of the bullpen or risk losing him by designating him for assignment. Turner has thrown six straight scoreless inning as a reliever. The Nationals can shuttle Cole back and forth as often as they please.

Another possible factor in the rotation decision is relief pitcher Koda Glover’s status. The right-hander is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment for Class AA Harrisburg on Wednesday and could come off the disabled list this weekend. If he does, the Nationals would need to clear a spot on the roster for him.

NATIONALS
Trea Turner SS
Jayson Werth DH
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Wieters C
Chris Heisey LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Max Scherzer RHP

ORIOLES
Seth Smith RF
Adam Jones CF
Manny Machado 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Trey Mancini LF
Jonathan Schoop 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Caleb Joseph C
Ubaldo Jimenez RHP