Bases loaded, two outs, tied game; those are the situations every kid puts himself in when he plays in the backyard. At just 22, one pitcher realized his dream. No it wasn’t the World Series, but Robbie Ross was asked to make his second major league appearance in a very tough spot against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Ross jumped onto the big stage, out of nowhere, in the wide-open battle for a lefty reliever out of the Rangers pen in spring training. He beat out one of last year’s relievers Michael Kirkman, the favorite heading into the spring, and a host of other lefties Texas brought into camp this season.
In his first appearance of the season, against the Chicago White Sox, Ross got mop up duty.
Texas had a 5-0 advantage and it was a great place to bring him in for his first major league appearance. After issuing a leadoff walk, his only walk so far this year, Ross went three-up-three-down to close out the eighth inning.
We all know Ron Washington likes to show that he believes in his players, but he was so impressed that he decided to give the rookie a pressure cooker situation, and Ross rose to the occasion.
With two outs in the sixth and the bases loaded in a tie ballgame, Ross stepped to the mound and needed just two pitches to get former AL MVP Justin Morneau to ground out to third.
Ross has showed incredible poise for a rookie and a pitching style that should continue to benefit him, especially in Arlington.
What we have seen from him early on is a great ability to throw strikes anywhere on the plate to left-handed and right-handed hitters. For such a young player, he shows a command of his pitches that you rarely see in a 22-year-old.
In his first three appearances Ross has thrown 33 strikes to just 21 balls. While those numbers don’t blow you away, for a rookie it is pretty impressive.
Ross uses is hard slider with good break to induce a lot of ground balls, something that Matt Harrison has turned into an art form. He also features a good fastball that he can command to both sides of the plate and stays around 92 mph and will occasionally touch as high as 95 mph.
Earlier in spring training I was under the impression that Ross was strictly a ground ball pitcher, someone who would never put up strikeouts in big numbers. But in just 3.2 innings he has sat down four batters, including three in two innings on Sunday.
In just one week Ross already looks like a more favorable choice than both Uehara and Mark Lowe out of the pen.
At the beginning of spring training Ross was just a feel good story. A young pitcher who managed to stay around a little longer than everyone thought he would. Now, Ross isn't just sticking around, he is becoming a go-to guy for Texas.