Ross Delivers in Rainy Home Opener
Last year on April 7th, Joe Ross made his Parkview Field debut as an 18-year-old, facing the Lake County Captains. It didn’t go according to plan. He gave up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings, which was the second-shortest starting outing of the year for Fort Wayne.
Now, in his second go-round with the TinCaps, he’s matured in ways that 365 days on a calendar can’t measure. His performance on Thursday night in front of a crowd of 5,524 was dominant. Ross allowed one hit in five innings, while striking out a career-best eight batters. In two starts Ross is 2-0, and has surrendered two hits, walked two batters and struck out 12. Not only is he a better pitcher from a year ago, but he’s a more mature individual, which no doubt has carryover into his play.
“In the back of my mind, I had a couple thoughts thinking about last year’s start. A few of the guys where here from last year, so I stuck in my head what they did last year to me, compared to this year,” Ross said after the game in the clubhouse.
“He was unhittable today,” TinCaps manager Jose Valentin told The News-Sentinel. “Even when guys were on base and he needed to get an out, he didn’t change at all. His tempo stayed the same. He maintained composure. He worked ahead in the count and made the pitches when he needed them.”
“His confidence (is strong),” Valentin said. “He’s throwing strikes, he’s working ahead in counts and he’s not afraid to get hit. When he’s got his stuff, he’s a power pitcher, but he has a good breaking ball and changeup. Attack the hitters and let the guys behind you help you out.”
After his first start, Ross told me that he threw about 80% fastballs, which obviously worked well as he shut out the Great Lakes Loons over five innings. Yesterday, though, he said it was his offspeed stuff that he relied on a bit more.
“The past two outings, my fastball command has gone pretty well, and the velocity is there despite the weather. Slider and changeup, especially tonight, I thought I threw very well. … It’s just staying aggressive. Being confident in my pitches, and stuff like that is really what gets me off to a good start,” Ross told The Journal Gazette.
I caught up with Padres minor league pitching coordinator Mike Cather, who is in town for the week, after the game, and we talked about Ross’ spring training. Cather said that Ross distinguished himself from many other minor league pitchers because of his demeanor and improved quality of pitches during the spring. I suspect we’ll get to chat with Cather a few times this season, considering the wealth of arms Fort Wayne has in the starting rotation.
Speaking of which, last year’s seventh-overall draft pick Max Fried starts tonight for Fort Wayne. In his first TinCaps start, the California native allowed one run in four innings, while walking four and fanning five.
Hear from batterymates Joe Ross and Dane Phillips as they discuss yesterday’s 4-0 win over the Captains:
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Justin Cohn of The Journal Gazette took some nice video of last night’s action, which you can see here:
GOOD BASEBALL READ
I highly recommend this piece on how James Shields, a former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher now with the Royals, is trying to change the Kansas City clubhouse culture for the better: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/mlb–james-shields–the-royals–key-offseason-acquisition–is-leading-the-way-to-create-rays-like-chemistry-175011715.html
Cher Lloyd…take it away!