Mar 2, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcherRobbie Ross
Jr. (46) throws the ball against the Chicago White Sox at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY
The Texas Rangers are desperately trying to plug some holes in their starting rotation. Robbie Ross is one pitcher they are considering as a starter this season. Robbie Ross was recently interviewed and said he would like to earn a spot as a starter or he would like to be a long reliever. He said he is very passionate about being a starter and would like move to that role either this or next year. He sees this year as a good chance for him since Derek Holland is currently out.
Ross in the minors: Ross was a starter in the minors. He played for 3 years in low A and AA ball and recorded and ERA of 2.88 with a record of 26-20 over 68 games/380 2/3 innings of work. Ross was ranked as the 43 top prospect in the nation in 2011. One of his best attributes in 2011 and overall in his minor league days was his fastball, which clocked in the low-90’s and his command. Even looking back at his minor league days, Ross has been typically a pitcher who throws strikes and is able to keep batters off balance to strike them out.
Ross in 2012: Over the 2 years that Ross has been with the Texas Rangers, he has never gotten a chance to start a regular season game. When he first joined the Rangers in 2012, he make a pretty big splash. Back in 2012, the lefty came out mowing down batters and found himself with 6 quick wins, and was actually the quickest to 6 wins at that point with an ERA of 1.30 over 23 games/32.2 innings. Ross continued finished the season with a lot of success. Ross typically pitched late in the game and averaged 1 1/3 innings per game.
ERA 2.22, 47 strike outs, 58 games/65 innings.
Ross in 2013: Ross started off 2013 where he left off in 2012, in the first half of the season he had an ERA of 2.59 over 41 games/41 2/3 innings with 41 strike outs. But, Ross started to struggle with command in the second half of the season and saw his ERA increase. The worst part was Ross was used less, he only played in 24 games/20 2/3 innings. Over that time he had an ERA of 3.92 with 17 strike outs. To add to his struggles, Ron Washington stopped putting Ross in key game situations. It almost appeared that Ross lost the trust of the manager to come into a game to get the job done.
Washington talked about Ross’s slump and compared it to a hitter’s slump.
"“He’s like a hitter,” manager Ron Washington said of Ross. “He goes into a slump. He’s got to figure a way out of it. No one feels worse than Robbie. You just have to keep battling.“When things aren’t going right, they hit everything. When things are going good, you leave a pitch in the middle of the plate, they pop it up or they roll over it. It’s just part of the game of baseball, but you have to fight over it.” (Latino Times)"
With the loss of his command and execution, you would think that Robbie Ross was injured or hurting in the second half of the season, but no he was fine, he was just throwing them in the zone where batters were able to hit the ball.
"“He’s not hurt, so it’s a matter of getting his command back,” manager Ron Washington said. “He gets his command back, that will take care of everything. He’s searching for his command. He has always been a strike-thrower. If he gets his command, the strikeouts will take care of itself.” (MLB.com T.R. Sullivan)"
But what was it with his command? Why was he so ineffective in 2013? It comes down to not executing against left handed batters.
- RH Opposing Batting Average – .235/136 at-bats
- LH Opposing Batting Average – .228/101 at-bats
- RH Opposing Batting Average – .209/153 at-bats
- LH Opposing Batting Average – .344/90 at-bats
As you can tell, he became ineffective against lefties. And it seems that after the second half of the season, Washington didn’t like to match him up against lefties, since you can see a drop in at-bats.
Offseason practice: Since Ross struggled in the second half of the season, getting some extra playing time was in order for Ross. Ross, along with several of the Texas Rangers played in the Dominican Winter League. This time got the start, but it was disastrous in his first outing. In his first game for the Toro, he allowed 4 singles, 2 walks which resulted in 4 runs. He ended the day with a sky high ERA of 108.00. But, to his credit, Ross did settle down after that game and pitched much better. Ross did manage to get his ERA down to 5.40 after a few more games, which finished his offseason ball.
Spring Training 2014: Ross got his first spring training start in 2014 against the Chicago White Sox. Ross pitched in 2 innings and allowed 2 hits and 1 run over 33 pitches, 19 were for strikes. Ross started off the first inning by hitting the first batter Adam Eaton. He continued his bad inning by allowing a couple of singles that brought in a run. Ross had a bit of a better second inning, but got all 3 outs from contact.
Looking onward: Is Robbie Ross a starter or a reliever? In my opinion, a reliever. He did have success in the minors as a starter, but in several of the leagues he was in, they were considered a pitcher’s league, which helped his ERA and his eventual promotion. The Rangers saw the top prospect live up to his reputation in 2012, but that faded in 2013 as hitters figured him out, especially left handed batters. Looking to 2014, in order to get the most out of Ross, he should be left as a mid-reliever. But, if he can’t figure out his command how to get lefties out, it might be hard to utilize him like the Rangers did in 2012. Ross has been working on his change up. In 2013, Ross relied mainly on his fastball and slider, both of which hitters were able to hit well. Hopefully the Rangers will get the 2012 Ross back. If he is able to add a pitch to his bag, then he should be able to get batters off balance again and start being this strike thrower he was in 2012. If not, we might see more of the second half 2013 Ross.