The Texas Rangers started the season without any grand expectations for Robbie Ross. He had earned a spot in the Rangers' bullpen out of spring training even though he had spent less than half a season at the Double-A level. Ross made the roster with one main purpose and that was to get left-handed hitters out. Ron Washington and Mike Maddux expressed their desire to have a left-handed reliever who could get both righties and lefties out, but they would have been happy to have a pitcher who was great against lefties.
Ross has turned out to be much more than that. He has definitely shown the ability to get lefties out with lefties hitting just .242 against him, but he has been even better against righties with them hitting .205. His consistency has allowed him to race out to a 6-0 record along with a 1.08 ERA while throwing more innings than any other reliever in the American League. He is without a doubt one of Washington's most trusted arms. Ross had been a starter throughout his minor league career and would have been a logical choice to enter the rotation after injuries to Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis, but the Washington felt that Ross was too important in the bullpen for that to happen. The Rangers have instead turned to Justin Grimm and possibly Martin Perez, allowing Ross to continue being Washington's trusted arm for the sixth and seventh innings.
There is no question that Ross will continue to work out of the bullpen in 2012, unless something dramatic takes place, but the decision beyond this season will not be an easy one to make. Even during his time as a starting pitcher, many felt that Ross would ultimately end up as a middle-reliever. He has shown the ability to get big league hitters out and done so with enough consistency that the Rangers are going to have to at least ponder his value in the rotation at some point. Colby Lewis will possibly be leaving in free agency after this season and the future of Neftali Feliz as a starting pitcher is definitely in doubt. There is also the question of when Grimm and Perez will be ready for a full time role in the rotation. It may not be a question the Rangers have to answer this season or even in 2013, but the question is coming, just like it has for C.J. Wilson, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando.
It is never easy for a manager to name a middle-reliever to the All-Star team, especially when it is his own pitcher and a rookie, but Ross is as deserving as a middle-reliever has ever been. His name should be announced as a member of the American League staff on Sunday, but whether that happens or not, the Rangers have witnessed time and time again this season that he is fully capable of getting any big league hitter out. Out of spring training the Rangers' bullpen looked extremely powerful with Joe Nathan, Ogando and Mike Adams, Ross is now just as powerful of a weapon and Feliz could be back in the bullpen after the All-Star break. What was a very questionable bullpen just a year ago is now one of the most powerful around and Robbie Ross is a major reason for that.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
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- Robbie Ross
- Alexi Ogando
- Texas Rangers