ATLANTA (AP) Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker expects Joe Ross to return from the 60-day disabled list Sunday and make his first start since July 2.
Baker will keep Ross on a pitch count, probably no more than three innings, when Washington closes a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves.
Ross has been sidelined with right shoulder inflammation. He went 7-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 16 starts before getting hurt.
With a magic number of six to clinch the NL East, Baker wants to use the last two weeks of the regular season to set up his rotation for the playoffs, but Ross' role is uncertain.
''We'll see how his arm feels,'' Baker said Saturday. ''Then we'll increase the workload as he can or maybe see how he does out of the 'pen. It's just important to us that he gets on a mound and in a game before we start worrying about what we can expect from him.''
Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez are set as the top three with two-time All-Star Stephen Strasburg sidelined with a strained flexor mass in his right forearm. He hasn't made a start since lasting 2 1/3 innings in a Sept. 7 start against the Braves.
Strasburg began exercising his arm Friday and threw for a few minutes Saturday, but Baker had no timetable for a possible return. Baker would like for Ross work his way back as a starter.
''I talk to guys in the league,'' Baker said, ''and they said he has as nasty stuff as any young right-hander that they have faced.''