Red Sox may have bullpen fixture in Robbie Ross


Robbie Ross Jr. was positioned for an excellent career out of the Rangers’ bullpen. Texas promoted him to the big leagues to start the 2012 season and, as a 23-year old, the southpaw posted a 2.22 ERA in 65 innings. He continued his success into the 2013 season and, though his ERA did rise to 3.03, his peripherals were even better as he raised his K/9 from 6.5 to 8.4 and lowered his BB/9 from 3.5 to 2.7 in another strong season.

However, Ross’s career took a turn for the worse last season when the Rangers, who had been decimated by injuries in spring training, attempted to move Ross into the starting rotation.

Ross simply never acclimated to a starting role last season, making 12 unsuccessful starts for the last-place Rangers. As a starting pitcher, his ERA spiked to 5.70 as he struck out fewer batters and walked more than during his time in the bullpen. Once it was clear that the Ross experiment was not a success, the Rangers moved him back to his home in the bullpen, but the damage had been done. Ross had not trained to relieve in 2014 and was clearly uncomfortable even in short stints, posting an atrocious 7.85 ERA in 15 games from the bullpen.

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In the later stages of the offseason, the Red Sox took a gamble on Ross and traded prospect Anthony Ranaudo to Texas in exchange for the now 25-year old lefty. And entering the 2015 season, there are no doubts about Ross’s role.

With no other quality left-handers in the bullpen, aside from potentially Craig Breslow, Ross will be the primary lefty out of the bullpen. However, he may not serve the traditional role of a left-handed reliever.

Throughout his career, Ross has strongly displayed reverse splits, meaning that lefties have actually hit him better than righties. In fact, opposing lefties have actually hit Ross pretty hard at times, sporting a career .782 OPS against him versus .712 from right-handed hitters.

Now entering the prime of his career, it would be ideal for Ross to attempt to correct those unusual splits. Even if he is unable to do so, he can be a quality arm out of the Red Sox bullpen, though. Considering his former starting experience (as bad as it may have been) and his time in relief, Ross has proven that he can pitch for stints of multiple innings, a valuable asset out of any bullpen but particularly Boston’s, which does not have an obvious long reliever at the moment.

In the upcoming season, Ross will likely serve as a middle reliever capable of going a few innings at a time. However, he won’t turn 26 until June and he still has three remaining seasons of team control. There’s plenty of room to improve for Ross and there’s a good chance that he’ll be a member of the Red Sox bullpen for the foreseeable future. With so much change in the Red Sox bullpen this offseason, it’s easy to lose Ross in the shuffle, but given his youth and past performance, he could have more staying power than the rest.

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