MadFriars Interview: Joe Ross

After the Padres selected Joe Ross with a first round pick in 2011, the young righty had a disappointing debut season last year, first struggling with performance, and then with nagging injuries. The Padres shut him down for a while, then put him back on a slower path, getting him work in the Northwest League over the summer.

Ross responded very positively, posting a 2.03 ERA and an impressive 28-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26.2 innings for the Emeralds, and earning a playoff start for the TinCaps.

After spending much of the offseason near his Oakland home throwing with his brother and a group of other players, Ross came in to spring training much more prepared this year.

"Joe got up there on the mound and started throwing his bullpen," said Padres pitching coordinator Mike Cather. "It was like ‘this is the guy.' He's much more mature and much more prepared to be a major leaguer."

The offseason prep work has paid off over the first month of the season. Still 19 years old (he turns 20 later this month), Ross sports a 2.84 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, and hasn't surrendered a homer yet this year. We caught up with Ross in spring training to talk about his preparations for this season.

MadFriars: Mechanically, you look like you've really simplified what you're doing on the mound this year with fewer moving parts and less extraneous effort.

Joe Ross: I kind of went back to the basics. Last year, I felt myself rushing a little bit and then kind of got caught up in the moment. My mechanics, not really fell apart, but kind of changed a little bit over time. I definitely worked this offseason on kind of slowing down and getting back to what I was at before and trying to stay down in the zone.

As someone without much experience having adversity on a baseball diamond, last year must have been challenging for you?

Joe Ross: It was rough getting hurt, especially that early in the season. It was definitely a good learning experience taking care of my body, doing all the preventative things you have to do to stay healthy throughout the whole the season. After that, when I came out [to Peoria] to rehab, the training staff and all the rehab guys did a really good job. Then when I went back to Eugene and just tried to get back on track. I felt pretty good about how I performed post-injury last year, even making that one start in the playoffs for Fort Wayne.

What did you take away from that experience?

Joe Ross: Biggest thing is staying calm and staying down in the zone. I feel like I do a pretty good job, but once things get going, the game speeds up. Sometimes I try to speed up with it, which is the last thing you want to do.

There's always a fine line between getting fired up and using your emotion effectively on the one hand, and letting things get out of control on the other. How do you balance that?

Joe Ross: It's one of those things that I've always been good at. Something a missed opportunity gets you fired up a little bit on the inside, which makes you want to get that mentality of, "I'm going to get you right back." It's one of the things that I pride myself on, being able to come back from adversity like that.

If you were to file a scouting report on yourself today, what's the biggest developmental area you have to work on?

Joe Ross: The biggest thing I'm going to try to focus on this year is that first inning – a strong first inning. Last year, I had a few where the first inning was a little shaky and after that, it was kind of shut it down. I want to try to get that mentality to get that competitiveness early in the game and then carry it over.

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