Rangers' Ross Locates His Fastball

ARLINGTON — The success Robbie Ross had in 2011 wasn't the result of a new, electric pitch or from meditating while listening to the recordings of the Swami Baha. But the lefthander did have a revelation that led to a breakthrough campaign.

He learned the value of locating his fastball, the first thing Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux wants to see from his pupils.

"I was just trying to figure out what I needed to do," said Ross, the organization's minor league pitcher of the year after going 10-5, 2.34 between high Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco. "I was throwing more strikes, and I wasn't trying to be so fine with it. I was just trying to get it in the zone a little bit better."

Ross was also the pitcher of the year in the Carolina League. A 2008 second-round pick out of high school in Kentucky, Ross has  now been invited to big league spring training for the first time.

At 5-foot-11, Ross doesn't have the body of a front-of-the-rotation starter, nor the frame and overpowering stuff to be a closer. His fastball and slider are effective pitches, and his offseason bullpen sessions were designed to help him get a better feel for a changeup.

He appeared to harness control issues that had hampered him in his first few seasons. He struck out 134 hitters and walked 33, and his strikeout ratio improved when he jumped levels, as he fanned 36 and walked five in 38 Double-A innings.
"What I had to learn the most was keeping the ball down and let it get in play," he said.

Ross participated in the Rangers' January minicamp for pitchers, giving Maddux a longer look at him.

"He keeps the ball down, changes speed and has a little deception to his delivery," Maddux said. "He's overachieves, and I'm big on that."


• Count lefthander Ben Snyder among the nonroster invitees who will be competing for a spot in the big league bullpen. He spent 2011 in Frisco, where he held lefthanded hitters to a .202 average.

• Tanner Scheppers, who dealt with a bad back last season, said this is the first time he has felt completely healthy in more than a year. The righty, selected in the supplemental first round in 2009 out of Fresno State, has been told that the Rangers are no longer looking at him as a starter.