CINCINNATI — The Nationals added two relievers to their troubled bullpen Friday, though not quite in the way some hoped. Right-handers Trevor Gott and Austin Adams were promoted to the big leagues. The Nationals already had one open roster spot, as they optioned lefty Sammy Solis to Class AAA Syracuse this week. The second was cleared by Joe Ross, who was moved to the disabled list, retroactive to July 11, with a with a right elbow sprain.
Manager Dusty Baker did not sound optimistic about a quick return for Ross on Friday.
“It’s not in the near future because Joe’s had some problems in the past,” Baker said. “I don’t want to speculate on things and I don’t want to think the worst. We’re preparing for it to be a longer situation.”
Ross left his start Sunday with what Baker called “triceps tenderness” in the area of his throwing elbow, but the results of his MRI exam were not available before the team left for the break. Ross underwent an MRI arthrogram on his elbow, and the club is awaiting the results.
“I guess it’s all related,” said Ross, who had never experienced serious elbow trouble before this episode. “Usually one thing leads to another. Or, if something’s weak, you kind of compensate. But I was kind of feeling that triceps at first. Like I said, just waiting back to see what they say and get another opinion. For now, hopefully it’s not as bad as it could be.”
With Ross’s spot clear, the Nationals brought in two fresh pitchers, one of whom has never appeared in a major league game before. Adams, a 26-year-old right-hander, came to the Nationals in the deal that sent Danny Espinosa to the Angels last offseason.
“I’m just so blessed, man,” Adams said. “I’ve been in the minor leagues for freakin’ six, seven years now. Been up and down. And the inner struggles of, ‘Am I good enough to do this?’ And then finally understanding, ‘Hey I can do this. I’m good enough to do this.’ It’s an awesome feeling. Absolutely.”
Adams had a 2.50 ERA in 28 appearances in Syracuse with 53 strikeouts in 36 innings, which begs the question why the reliever-needy Nationals did not call him sooner.
Their concern with Adams has always been walks, something he has battled his whole career despite elite strikeout stuff. Adams walked 29 batters in those 36 innings, a ratio that troubled Nationals decision-makers. Nevertheless, with a bullpen wrestling for consistency, he certainly seems worth a look.
“He’s kind of a high-strung guy,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said. “We’d like to put him in a situation that’s a little less pressure in the beginning. It’s his first big league experience. And he’s a guy, they told me, that’s extremely tough on right-handers. So we just hope he’s not overamped and able to find the strike zone.”
Gott, who also came from the Angels, though in the deal for Yunel Escobar two years ago, is a more familiar face with a more predictable arsenal. The right-hander has one of the harder fastballs in the system, with sink to go with it. This will be his second stint with the Nationals this season, the first of which lasted two innings and included five earned runs. But Gott has shown the ability to pitch in pressure situations before, and he handled set-up duties with the Angels in the 2015 season.
With those two in the mix, the Nationals now have an eight-man bullpen that includes three left-handers (Oliver Perez, Enny Romero, and Matt Grace) and five righties (Gott, Adams, Joe Blanton, Blake Treinen and Matt Albers). With Ross on the disabled list, they will need a starter for Tuesday. Jacob Turner started Thursday in Syracuse, meaning he would be on turn to start again Tuesday. Erick Fedde is scheduled to pitch Friday, so if he does that, he would not be available for that game in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The real question, however, is who will fill in for Ross long-term, should his injury require an extended absence.
“I think we have some internal options that we’re going to try first that we’re comfortable with,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “Then we’ll evaluate it from there and see where we go.”