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The Return of Robbie Ross

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Robbie Ross is coming up to replace Yu Darvish in the rotation, at least temporarily

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Doug Pensinger
In a season full of disappointments, one of the more overlooked, yet pretty significant, disappointments has been the saga of Robbie Ross.

The 25 year old lefthander, who had spent the previous two seasons working as a pretty good reliever out of the major league bullpen, was given a chance to win a spot in the Rangers' opening day rotation this spring.  The combination of a strong spring and a bunch of injuries resulted in Ross winning a rotation spot out of spring training, and through his first three starts, that move looked like it was working, with Ross putting up a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings.

Things quickly started falling apart, though, as Ross gave up 7 runs to the ChiSox in his 4th start of the season.  After a 6 IP, 2 run effort against the Mariners, Ross gave up 10 runs in 3.1 IP against Oakland, 6 in 5.1 IP against Colorado, and 5 in 6.2 IP against Boston.  Moreover, Ross was struggling with his command...he was throwing strikes, but they weren't good strikes, instead being pitches left out over the plate, a problem he battled in the second half of 2013.  Ross's final start wasn't too bad on the surface -- he allowed a lone run in 4.1 IP against the Blue Jays -- but his poor command and high pitch count led Ron Washington to yank Ross before he made it 5 full innings, and Ross went into the bullpen after that.

The command issues that plagued Ross continued in the pen, though...he allowed opponents a .415/.456/.509 line with a .438 BABIP as a reliever, had a 9.00 ERA out of the pen, and finally was sent down to Round Rock to work as a starter, not because his future was as a starter, but to get him innings to try to get his groove back.  Things were less than ideal his first few starts, and he hit his nadir on July 9 with a 2.2 IP, 9 run outing against Colorado Springs.

Since then, however, Ross seems to have turned things around somewhat.  In his last five outings, he has a 2.91 ERA in 34 IP, and he's struck out 21 batters against just 3 walks.  Ross, over the last month or so, has looked much more like the 2nd round above-slot draft pick that was one of the Rangers' better pitching prospects a couple of years ago.

With Yu Darvish on the disabled list for a couple of starts, the Rangers need someone to fill his shoes, and the promotion could be viewed as both a reward for Ross working hard and getting things back on track, and an opportunity for the major league staff to see how much better he looks now, compared to the mess he was when he was sent down.  My gut feeling is that Ross is a candidate for the bullpen in 2015, not for the rotation, but who knows...if Ross pitches well in these spot starts, he'll probably get a few more starts.  And if he succeeds there, he could, just maybe, end up putting himself back on the map for the rotation in 2015.

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