In an era when the average pitcher stands 6’4″ to 6’7″ tall, he stands a rather pedestrian 5’11”.
On a team built for playoff success, full of veterans who know what it takes to win, he has never pitched an inning above the AA level. And only 10% of his 381 career innings have even come at that high level.
Yet on Friday, April 6th, this 22-year-old will join only 24 other players who can claim the distinction of being an active member of the Texas Rangers.
I have only managed to see one televised game this spring with the Rangers. In that game, every pitcher the Rangers used had trouble with their command, including Yu Darvish. Every pitcher except one. Robbie Ross.
Ross will be a Texas Rangers player on Friday because he did it the old-fashioned way. He earned his way onto the team.
Ross was an afterthought, a non-roster player destined for AA Frisco, in camp just to be among the contingent of pitchers used to finish off the exhibition games. While many of those pitchers were giving up runs and helping the Rangers drop as low as 6-16 at one point in Spring Training, Ross just threw strikes. In 12 innings, Ross allowed 10 hits and only two runs, walking two and striking out 11. Another 19 of the outs he recorded were groundouts. Only three of the 36 outs credited to Ross were fly balls.
Over the course of a month, Robbie Ross passed by proven major leaguers like Joe Beimel, favored candidates like Michael Kirkman and even outpitched probable teammates Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe. In his next to last outing, Ross’ only remaining competition, Neal Cotts, injured himself on his last pitch, making the 2008 2nd round draft pick the last man in the bullpen and a major leaguer at least one full year ahead of schedule.
It’s a great story, but anyone who has followed major league baseball for a while has seen this many times before. Almost every team has a great story like Ross coming out of camp, only to see them flop once the games actually count. More often than not, these phenoms are back in the minors by May 1st.
This could very well be the eventual fate for Robbie Ross in 2012. But for now, he’s a full-fledged member of the Texas Rangers, and as long as he keeps throwing strikes and getting groundouts, he’ll continue to be one. I hope that proves to be the case.