OAKLAND—During his years at California, righthander Tyson Ross learned that even top athletes have to study. That's the way it goes in Berkeley, one of the top academic institutions in the nation.
So when Ross, 22, was struggling along during the early parts of the 2009 season, he went back to study hall—on the baseball field.
"I learned how to watch hitters in the games before my start, and apply that to my start," Ross said.
"I started taking my own individual notes when I was in the stands charting. I'd see that some teams are aggressive, while other teams wouldn't swing at the first pitch. That helped me take my game to the next level."
The scholarly approach to baseball combined with a variety of small adjustments suggested by Double-A Midland pitching coach Scott Emerson led to continued improvement as the season progressed.
"His velocity got better as the year went on," minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said.
Ross was throwing 89-91 mph in April and May, then moved up to 93-94 with a high of 97 as the season ended. The other major change for the season was lengthening his stride to take advantage of his 6-foot-5 height.
As he adjusted to the stride length, the velocity increased, said farm director Keith Lieppman.
So Ross changed the very core of his being on the mound, moving from thrower to thinker and power pitcher.
The Athletics' second-round pick out of Cal in 2008, Ross is a true local product. He grew up a short BART ride away from the Oakland Coliseum and played high school ball at Bishop O'Dowd High in Oakland.
The progress he showed in 2009 indicates that Ross might not be that far away from coming home for his professional career.
• The A's will retain the same minor league staff for next season, with the only movement being a job-trade between Aaron Nieckula and Steve Scarsone. Nieckula moves from Stockton to Kane County, which is close to his family home. Scarsone, who managed the Cougars last season, will take over at Stockton.
• The A's dipped into their minor league depth to make a deal with the Cubs. The A's dealt righthanded reliever Jeff Gray along with Double-A outfielder Matt Spencer and short-season righthander Ronny Morla for second baseman Aaron Miles and slugger Jake Fox. Fox could have a shot at a DH job or playing some first base.