Tyson Ross debuts for Tigers, searching for sinker

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Tyson Ross works in the second inning Sunday against the Phillies.

Lakeland, Fla. – It was the spring and Tigers’ debut for free-agent signee Tyson Ross on Sunday against the Phillies. And though the 6-5 right-hander would have preferred a cleaner stat line, all things considered, it was a solid day’s work.

“I got my work in,” Ross said after the Tigers’ 10-6 loss. “You don’t ever want to give up runs, but I felt like I made some pitches and got up to game speed, which is nice.”

Signed for one year at $5.75 million, Ross threw all four of his pitches in a 39-pitch, 10-batter outing. He needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning.

He gave up singles to the first two hitters, then Nick Williams launched a 3-2, two-seam fastball some 425 feet over the wall in center field. He set down five of the next six hitters, including striking out Austin Listi on arguably the best slider he threw all day.

“It’s baseball, you have to be ready for 30-pitch innings and be able to come out of it,” he said. “You have to find your focus again and move forward. That first inning was longer than I wanted it to be, but I feel good physically and I was able to get back on track.”

Ross is two years removed from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery. Before he was injured, he was predominantly a sinker-slider pitcher. He said he is still searching to recapture his sinker – and he has locked in on the reams of analytical data the Rapsodo machine provides to help find it.

“I’m trying to look at the film, look at the numbers and just find out what the ideal spin and everything is to get that sinker back to where it was before,” he said. “To give me two pitches that can go in different directions.”

Last year, Ross said, all his pitches moved right to left. If he can get his sinker shape back, he will have an effective pitch moving left to right.

“Right now, it’s kind of a coin flip,” he said. “I threw some sinkers that cut. Some moved the wrong way.”

Game bits

The Phillies had the long ball working for them Sunday. Besides Williams’ three-run blast, former Twins catcher Drew Butera walloped three-run home run off Buck Farmer in the fifth.

Then in the sixth, Dylan Cozens hit a 3-0 pitch from reliever Zac Houston that cleared the Margaritaville Patio in right field and bounced off the roof of the Tigers administration building.

"I haven't been here as long as you guys, but that's the longest one I've seen here," Gardenhire said. "Our people in our office were ducking, and they didn't have to because it went over the top of them."

... Pretty impressive first outing for right-hander Drew VerHagen. He struck out the first two batters on six pitches, including former Tiger Andrew Romine. An error extended his inning, but he essentially got four outs.

... It was an adventurous day for Tigers center field prospect Daz Cameron. He fought the wind and the sun and lost twice. The first was a long, slicing drive by Williams that Cameron circled and couldn’t catch up to.

The second was a short fly ball that he lost in the sun.

"It's not easy there when the sun gets at a certain time and the clouds are in and out," Gardenhire said. "Learning experience."

But, Cameron also turned a routine single to right field into a double with his speed and drove in a run.

... Ronny Rodriguez, two-run shot in the eighth, and Harold Castro, solo in the ninth, homered for the Tigers.

... Left-hander Daniel Stumpf, who has been easing into spring, threw live batting practice on the back fields Sunday. He could see his first game action as early as Wednesday.

Twitter @cmccosky