Over at ESPN, Keith Law has a piece on six major league relievers who could help their teams as starters, and one of those pitchers highlights is the Rangers' Robbie Ross. Law says of Ross:
Ross is only in the big leagues right now because Texas had a spot in its bullpen; long-term, he's got the weapons and the mental approach to start. Everything Ross throws has movement, and he seems to be able to sink, slide or cut his pitches at will. His fastball, 90-93 in the 'pen, would likely be more 88-91 in the rotation, but that fastball, plus a hard cutter/slider and a solid-average changeup would be plenty for a left-handed starter with the ceiling of a solid No. 3.
It will be interesting to see how the Rangers handle Ross going forward, assuming he continues to have success in a relief role this year. Of the Rangers' seven current relievers, only three -- Alexi Ogando, Joe Nathan, and Ross -- are sure bets to return in 2013, with Mike Adams, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara eligible for free agency, and Scott Feldman becoming a free agent if the Rangers' decline his $9.25 million team option for 2013. While there are numerous pitchers in the system who could be options for the bullpen, if Ross shows in 2012 he can be a solid middle reliever or setup man, the Rangers might feel that they need him in the pen in 2013 because of the lack of other proven options.
On the other hand, Colby Lewis is likely to depart as a free agent after the season, so even if everyone else stays healthy and Neftali Feliz sticks in the rotation, there will be a rotation spot available. While not impossible, it seems unlikely that the Rangers are going to splurge on the free agent market for a Zack Greinke or a Cole Hamels, which means that they'll most likely want to fill that spot from within. And if Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, and Robbie Ross -- the three top candidates at this point to replace Lewis in 2013 -- are all vying for a rotation spot next spring, you'd think Ross would have a leg up over the other two if he performs well in the bullpen over the course of the 2012 season.
Its an interesting problem to have...as Law notes, along with Ross, the Rangers also have Feldman and Ogando in the bullpen, and Feldman and Ogando could start for a lot of other teams right now as well.
One other note, since we're talking about Ross...Ross is not a LOOGY. It seems like, sometimes, folks LOOGY interchangeably with lefty reliever. That's not the case. LOOGY stands for "lefty one out guy." Think Brian Shouse, or Clay Rapada, or some other lefty sidearmer, or maybe Arthur Rhodes last year...a pitcher who comes in to face one tough lefthander, then is pulled from the game. Think Bill Bray (79 games, 48.1 innings pitched in 2011), or Matt Reynolds (73 games, 50.2 innings) or Tim Byrdak (72 games, 37.2 innings).
Those are LOOGYs. Robbie Ross is a reliever.