What started off as a triceps strain has apparently morphed into something much more serious for Nationals’ right-hander Joe Ross, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Friday with a right elbow sprain. Ross underwent an MRI arthrogram, but the team is still awaiting the full results before making any kind of projection for his return. He was removed from his last start before the All-Star break, lasting just 3 1/3 innings against the Braves before triceps soreness forced him off the mound.
Comments from both Ross and club manager Dusty Baker suggest that this is uncharted territory for the 24-year-old righty. He served a stint on the 60-day disabled list in 2016 with inflammation in his right shoulder, but hasn’t fallen prey to any other serious injuries to date. Despite his relative good health over the first half of the season, Ross maintained a career-worst 5.01 ERA in 73 2/3 innings, paired with a 2.4 BB/9, 8.3 SO/9 and a 5-3 record in 13 starts.
Naturally, there’s some concern that lingering elbow trouble could spell the end of the season for Ross, who told reporters that he plans on seeking a second opinion before making any decisions. A long-term replacement for Ross has not been announced yet, but the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes and Jorge Castillo report that right-hander Jacob Turner could get the nod in his place against the Angels on Tuesday.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.