Picking up right where he left off, Greg Ross twirls another gem

Photo courtesy Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators

When Greg Ross was promoted to Harrisburg last year, few knew what to expect from the right-hander taking a spot in the Senators’ rotation. After all, Ross found himself on an independent ball team in New Jersey after getting released from the Baltimore Orioles’ organization and had made just ten appearances with the Potomac Nationals since signing with Washington in late April.

No one saw coming the historic run of outings that Ross managed to string together over a month and a half last summer.

In his first four starts, the Maryland native tossed seven scoreless innings each time out. In fact, Ross began his tenure with the Senators setting a modern day record for the club throwing 30 consecutive innings without allowing a run. Ross yielded runs in only four of the 54 innings he pitched for Harrisburg on his way to a 5-1 record and 0.83 ERA.

Making his season debut Monday night at FNB field, it was more of the same from the 27-year-old pitcher: Greg Ross just doing Greg Ross things.

The Frostburg State product mastered the Hartford Yard Goats lineup scattering three hits over six scoreless innings while striking out five and walking none. He needed only 63 pitches in the effort as he poured in strike after quality strike to stay ahead in the count and in command all evening.

“He’s able to throw the ball over the plate and get people out in the strike zone. He’s challenging hitters and that’s what you have to do if you want to pitch at higher levels,” pitching coach Chris Michalak said. “Greg does a very good job of missing barrels.”

Maturity and attitude are as much a part of Ross’s success as execution. “I feel comfortable in my own skin. In throwing all of my pitches for strikes and competing,” Ross said. “That’s been my factor as a pitcher, going out and laying it all out there every time I get the ball.”

To give you an idea of the competitor that Ross is, manager Matt LeCroy points to the pitcher’s at-bat in the second inning with two outs and a runner on third base. The lifetime .122 hitter worked to a 2-1 count, fouled off three straight pitches, and then drove a Luis Niebla offering into the right-centerfield gap for a stand-up double. One pitch later Ross coasted home with another run on an Andrew Stevenson single to push the Senators’ lead out to 3-0. “I was just trying to make contact with a man on third,” Ross said. “Any time you can do that to help the team out and help your cause it’s definitely a fun thing.”

“The biggest thing is taking it easy around the bases. I figure if I hit it farther or in the gaps I don’t have to run as hard.”

That’s probably a smart idea from Ross whose 2016 season was interrupted when he suffered an injury in Altoona trying to beat out an infield single on July 17. He did manage to come back and throw a pair of one-inning appearances during the last week of the season though to end on a high note. “(Trainer) Eric (Montague) and the guys did a really good job getting me back healthy and to head into winter ball finishing out the season in October and November,” Ross said. “That was big for me.”

Ross quickly re-signed with the Nationals and says he couldn’t be happier staying in the organization. “I know he’s disappointed coming back to Double-A, but like I told him in spring training if you look at the history of the Nationals and Harrisburg a lot of guys went straight to the big leagues from here,” LeCroy said. “(Nationals’ General Manager) Mike Rizzo met with all of the coaches at the end of spring training and told us they’ll pull from anywhere so just make sure you have them ready.”

If Ross keeps putting up the numbers in Harrisburg he has, he’ll be impossible to ignore.

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