Some 23-year-olds have spent the summer looking for some work — Robbie Ross is the same way.
Each morning he wakes up and heads to the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and practices and then puts on his Texas Rangers uniform and heads out to the bullpen waiting to see if he’ll get a few innings of work that day.
Ross is one of the top arms in the Rangers bullpen with a team-best ERA of 1.72. His work is sometimes sporadic, going a week without an appearance before pitching in back-to-back games. And despite being on the mound for no more than six or seven outs a game, Ross has been a staple of consistency for one of baseball’s best teams.
“It’s pretty unreal; it’s a dream come true,” Ross said. “It’s where I’ve always wanted to be; I’ve dreamed about it since I was a kid. Being in this situation is a blessing.”
It was only four summers ago that Ross, who grew up in Jessamine County, was drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2008 Major League Baseball draft after a stellar career at Lexington Christian Academy. Ross was taken 57th overall and was called “a very intriguing high-school lefty who is considered to be one of the better prep southpaws in the draft class” by MLB.com at the time. The 2008 class also included Buster Posey, Aaron Crow and Christian Friedrich — all now in the majors.
“You have to grow up really quick (being drafted out of high school),” Ross said.
The road to the Rangers
Following 15 starts with the Spokane Indians (Class A short season) in 2009, he played in Class A advanced and Class A full season in 2010, posting a 12-11 record with a 3.58 ERA and 111 strikeouts.
In 2010, Ross played under Brad Holman, who became very influential in his life. Ross said Holman has been a huge help in developing him not just as a player but also as Christian.
“He’s always shooting me Bible verses and encouraging me in that way,” he said. “Honestly in my heart, I think that’s bigger than anything else.”
Ross began the 2011 season in Class A advanced playing for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. After a 9-4 record through 21 starts, he was promoted to the Class AA Frisco RoughRiders in time to get six starts and go 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA.
“AA is tough — you’ve got guys that have been called up (to the majors), and I faced a lot of guys who have been called up this year,” Ross said.
As 2011 came to a close, it looked as if Ross would spend another season in the minors climbing the ladder and honing his game — but he caught an elevator in the spring.
In January of this year, the Rangers announced that Ross had been named Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
It was also around that time that the Rangers started to look at who in the farm system could help fill the need of a left-handed pitcher in the club’s bullpen. Ross’ name was near the top of the list of candidates, and he was invited to spring training in Arizona.
“No way,” Ross said of his chances on making the opening-day roster. “I was just pretty surprised at the opportunity ... I never expected it. I just always thought I’d go to AA or AAA and kind of work my way up from there and see what happens.”
On April 1, Texas told Ross he had made the Rangers bullpen and would start the season with the club — not only that, but he would be the lone lefty in the pen. Ross had an ERA of 1.64 during spring training.
Ross made his major-league debut April 8 against the Chicago White Sox.
In one inning of relief, Ross walked a batter and struck out six-time all-star Paul Konerko.
In his next appearance six days later on April 14, Ross earned his first win in a 6-2 triumph over the Minnesota Twins.
“It’s been pretty unreal. This group of guys is an unreal group of baseball players,” Ross said. “It’s good to be on team that has been to the World Series twice ... that can play baseball at the highest level, and being a part of it is unreal. It’s pretty cool.”