Apr 15, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Robbie Ross Jr throws in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Robbie Ross Jr exceeding expectations

Texas Rangers left-handed pitcher Robbie Ross Jr. is exceeding expectations, at least mine.  If you’ve heard me on the Rangers Report podcast then you’ve heard me talk about Ross a lot.

Stay in the bullpen: My opinion has been the Ron Washington and the Texas Rangers should have kept the south paw in the bullpen.  After last season, I was beginning to wonder how effective he would be in 2014.  During the second half of the season, Ross struggled with his command and it appeared that lefties had him figured out.  He had a second half ERA of 3.40 over 24 games/20.2 innings.  To make things worse for Ross last season, he was being used less near the end of the season due to his struggles.

Winter ball:Also, during the offseason, Robbie Ross Jr played a few games in the Dominican Winter League.  In his first start, he was less than average, basically he was awful.  He allowed 4 hits, 2 walks and 4 earned runs over 1/3 of an innings.  After that one game, his ERA was about as high as I’ve ever seen one at 108.00.

His next 3 games in winter ball were much better.  He finished his 4 games with an ERA of 4.05, 11 strikeouts, allowed 5 walks and held opponents to average of .245 over 13.1 innings.

Spring training:Even after Ross showed signed of being able to be a starter in winter ball, I was still doubtful.  During the offseason Ron Washington told him that he would get a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation.  During his first start during spring training it appeared to be more second half Robbie Ross.  He pitched 2 innings, hit a batter, allowed a hit and an earned run.  Not the start he or anyone would have liked.  But, he improved little by little with each start and by his last start he was starting to impress.  But, to be honest, I was still doubtful, I still thought he should stay in the pen.  I was even doubtful he would making the Opening day starting rotation, but the weekend before Opening day he was told he made the list.  Granted it did help his chances that Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Holland and Alexi Ogando all missed the list.

17.2 scoreless innings: Robbie Ross made his first major league start on April 2 against the Philadelphia Phillies.   He had to use 96 pitches to get through 5.0 shutout innings.  He did manage to get 7 strike outs including one from Ryan Howard, but he had to labor on a few to get it done.  Overall, his first start was pretty good when you consider it was his first start since his minor league days.

Ross had his second start against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway, again he had a solid game, similar to what he did against the Phillies.  Again he had to use 98 pitches to get through 5.1 innings.  He only recorded 4 strike outs against Red Sox, but anytime you pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox in Fenway you’ll have to count that as a good outing.

First W:So after 10.1 innings of scoreless inning it was time to ask if Robbie Ross is able to be a major league starting pitcher.  After his start against the Seattle Mariners, it appears the answer is yes.  After a half year of watching Ross struggle and doubting he would be a starter, my opinion is now starting to shift.  Against the Mariners he pitched the best game so far this season.  He showed very good command, with the exception of hitting Brad Miller by a pitch twice.  When Ross exited the game, Washington gave him a hard time about hitting the same batter twice.

Ross finished the night with 7.2 scoreless innings allowed 5 hits with 2 strikeouts and 0 walks.  Even though he didn’t record a lot of strikes, he was able to keep the ball down, which forced 16 ground balls.  To make the night even better for Ross, the Rangers offense did something they haven’t done much for their pitchers, gave him some run support.

In the second inning Prince Fielder and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit back-to-back home runs to give him a 2-0 lead.  That doesn’t sound like much, but for the Rangers recently, that is a lot.  Once Ross exited the Rangers tacked on 3 more runs and end of the 9th frame, Ross would be credited with his first win as a major league starter.

It might be a bit early still, it has only been 3 games, but Robbie Ross is starting to look like a starter.  He has shown he has the command, endurance and the mental strength to be a starter.  Also, he’s been a lot better against lefties so far this year.  Last year lefties finished the season batting .343 against him, so far they are only batting .192.  If you are like me, you might be thinking the same thing now, Robbie Ross is a starter.

Video: Recap of Robbie Ross against the Mariners

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