Robbie Ross officially established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the Texas Rangers system last year with his outstanding campaign at short-season Spokane.
Despite being less than one year removed from high school, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound southpaw dominated the college-heavy Northwest League to the tune of a 2.66 earned-run average in 74.1 innings. Over that span, he yielded just 68 hits while walking 17 and striking out 76.
Ross throws his fastball between 90-93 mph, but it was one of the league's most dominant pitches because of its outstanding late life. The movement on Ross' fastball allowed him to post over 3.2 groundouts per flyout last summer. The 20-year-old also works with a sharp slider and a developing changeup.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with the pitcher earlier in the week to talk about his preparation for the season and to recap last year's development.
Jason Cole: How long have you been out in Surprise so far?
Robbie Ross: I was out here on the fourth or fifth of March.
Cole: So it was right before pitchers and catchers officially reported?
Ross: Yes. The fifth was when we got in.
Cole: This was your first offseason coming off throwing significant innings in pro ball. Tell me about your offseason and what you did to prepare for another full year.
Ross: This year I went with a man named Brian Ray. He's a trainer over at my old high school. He just came in–my brother was there last year, and my brother said that he's a great trainer and I should look into him. I've been looking around for a good trainer.
It was funny because he was like, ‘We're going to do this, this, this and this.' It was hilarious because the Rangers told me I needed to do more kettlebell, more legs, more core and hip workouts. And he did exactly what they told me to do.
It was awesome because also when I was working out, I got to talk to him about Christ, and that's really my main focus. I got to get with a Christian man that had the same morals and values as I did. It was amazing this year.
Cole: A lot of the pitchers are talking about how intense their offseason workouts were. How intense was yours, and how much more difficult was it than stuff you had done in the past?
Ross: This year was a lot more intense, especially the amount that I did. Knowing what I had to do to come into Spring Training ready–I knew what I had to do. It was awesome because getting that first year of Spring Training under my belt got me to start busting my tail and just getting in shape. It was great this year because I just was educated in that sense, and it was good because I got to get in there, do what I wanted to do, and get it all done pretty much.
Cole: Do you feel a little more prepared for the full season this year than you did coming into last year?
Ross: Yes, sir. A lot better. It was a good thing that the Rangers held me back and didn't send me to Hickory right away. I'm happy for that because I got the experience to go to Spokane and see how well I could do and just see what happened. It was awesome because I got to experience that–being away so far.
Now this year, hopefully I'm closer to home or whatever. It just depends on whatever they want to do with me. I feel really good this year. Last year, I wouldn't have been ready for a full season I don't think. This year, I feel like I've prepared myself and they have prepared us. It makes it really nice.
Cole: This is your second Spring Training. Is this one a little bit different for you now that you know everyone? Does it feel more comfortable?
Ross: I guess it's more relaxing now. I know all the coaches and I know what I need to do. I know my boundaries. Just the experience of last year and getting it under your belt helps because then you know, ‘Wow, I can't go and do this,' or, ‘I need to be on-time or 15 minutes early.'
It's great because having that first Spring Training–it helps to get that under your belt to get ready for the next one. Once you get that, I know you're considered kind of a veteran–sort of. I'm not considered a veteran right now. But at the same time, you feel like you know who you can talk to if you need help, you know what you can do, you know your limitations, you know how hard you need to throw in the bullpen to get ready. You don't need to ‘umph' up on everything. It makes it really nice.
Cole: Looking back on last season with Spokane, what areas of your game did you feel took the biggest steps forward?
Ross: Just mentally preparing and also just being ready to go when it was your turn. Knowing where we had to be at certain points of the day and just knowing how hard I needed to do things, how to pace myself and not just completely blow it out every time you throw. It helps to pace yourself and gain that control.
Also, being in Spokane and being so far away, it helped me spiritually too. I got to be away and be on my own. I had to rely on Christ to help me through situations–maybe adversities or maybe even victories sometimes. It gets lonely sometimes. Now that I might be close to home, that's fine.
Cole: Being so far away, in Spokane, I guess that kind of forced you to mature a little faster than usual?
Ross: Yes. It was like right away it was a whole new thing. I came to Arizona and I had my time here for maybe a month in instructs, and it wasn't bad. But it was like three months here and then two or three months in Spokane, Washington. It was a totally different thing. I didn't get to see my family much–I didn't even get to see my younger brothers all last year. That was tough. But I just knew that I was here for a reason and I'm not going to try and get impatient with it. I think that if I'm impatient with it, that'll make it worse. Getting to talk to them and getting to communicate with them was great.
Cole: Working out here and throwing bullpens, live batting practice, and tracking sessions, what has been your main focus so far?
Ross: Just trying to get control of my fastball and my changeup. Right now I'm just trying to get my changeup under control and work out every kink with it. This year, my focus on the offseason was trying to control that thing and get it under control.
And also my fastball–to try and spot up a lot better and just throw it. I don't want to feel like, ‘Man, I don't have conviction behind the pitch.' I want to have conviction like, ‘I'm hitting this spot, and I'm throwing it there.' This season was more of a season that I needed to focus on things more than just throwing the ball.
Cole: A lot of guys, when they come into pro ball, have their ‘welcome to professional baseball' moment where they realize it's not at all what they expected. Did you have something like that?
Ross: Spokane, Washington. That was mine. I threw my first game and I was like, ‘Man, you know, this is easy.' Then all the sudden–home run. And I was on pace for the next three games–I was on pace to give up a home run per game. I'd get down in my innings and it would be the third or fourth inning. I'd be like, ‘This is going to be a good game. Hopefully I don't give up a home run.' Then home run. I just couldn't get away from home runs. But this is professional baseball. And I wasn't used to giving up home runs. It's not such a bad thing, but it kind of gets you. That's when I was kind of like, ‘Welcome to professional baseball.'
Cole: You threw about 75 innings in Spokane last year. Do you have any idea what the goal is for you this season?
Ross: I'd say it's probably about 100. They said last year they wanted to do about 75, and then next year maybe 100. It just depends on how things go, especially if my arm is okay and things of that nature. It's just to a point where they told me they're going to take it slow. They have high schoolers and they don't want to push them too hard. Out of high school I threw 50 innings. Then they said, ‘Alright, we'll go to 75. Then from 75, we'll go to 100. Then from 100, maybe we'll go to 125.' And you just keep on going up the totem pole.
That's fine with me. I'm not worried about it. I think that me being impatient with it is just going to hurt me. If I can just ask God for the strength to be patient, because that's the hardest thing sometimes–to ask for that patience. Because it's tough to be patient when you want to get somewhere. You want to be like, ‘Man, I want to be a big leaguer.' But I just think that if I can take it in stride, cherish these moments, just have fun with it, and know that I'm building towards a career and not towards getting there right away and getting hurt. I'm taking it in stride.
Ross looking for patience
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