WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Nationals optioned Joe Ross to Syracuse on Tuesday after the right-hander struggled in three straight starts.
Washington filled the roster spot by recalling righty A.J. Cole from the Triple-A team.
Ross gave up 15 runs and 20 hits in 15 2/3 innings since his recall from the minors on April 19. He yielded five runs and seven hits over four innings to the New York Mets on Sunday.
''Joe wasn't Joe. That was it in a nutshell,'' Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. ''His usually hard sinker wasn't sinking, and his usually sharp slider wasn't sliding.''
Ross went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA with Washington last season. He was on the disabled list from July 3-Sept. 18 with right shoulder inflammation.
Baker said Ross is healthy but would probably be better off honing his game in the minors.
''It was a tough decision to send him back because we're going to need Joe,'' Baker said. ''I talked to him. He said he's not hurting, but that he really hadn't felt like himself since last year.''
Ross' mechanics were askew, too, according to Baker.
''His arm slot isn't the same as when he warms up early in the game,'' the manager said.
Cole begins his stay with the Nationals by serving the final three games of a five-game suspension he received last season for throwing a pitch near the head of Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang. Cole was ejected from the Sept. 25 game and began serving his suspension on the final weekend of the regular season.
The 25-year-old Cole was 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA in four starts with Syracuse. He is 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA in 11 career big league games.
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