Lakeland, Fla. — Detroit Tigers right-hander Tyson Ross, journeyman pitcher, continued his walkabout tour of the Grapefruit League on Friday. For a team seeking to stabilize its starting rotation, it wasn’t an encouraging look.
The line on Ross: Two innings, three hits, three earned runs, three consecutive walks, three wild pitches (in a seven-pitch span), one hit batter and one home run allowed (on the game’s second pitch).
After his outing gave the New York Mets needed fuel for a 7-1 victory at Joker Marchant Stadium, Ross blamed his struggles on a faulty release point. He called it a learning experience, typical for spring training’s early stages.
“It was just one of those days where I was out of synch,” Ross said. “I wasn’t able to make the adjustment quick enough.”
When Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson made a second-inning mound visit, it finally clicked for Ross. He escaped on a double-play ball and a popup to end his outing.
Officially, at least.
Instead of a third inning, Anderson sent Ross to the bullpen, where he worked to three simulated batters (about 15 pitches).
“When I went to the bullpen, I was able to sustain the adjustment after the up-down,” said Ross, who threw 41 pitches in two innings, just 18 for strikes. “I was able to get the pitch count built up, getting cold, getting back up, working to more hitters.
“It just took me longer than I wanted to make the adjustment. In season, I’ve got to make that adjustment quicker.”
Ross insisted he’s not concerned about numbers at this point — for the record, he’s 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA in two starts — and Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire backed up that assertion.
“It’s only his second (spring) start and hopefully things will continue to get better,’’ Gardenhire said. “Obviously, we had a little trouble on the mound today, misfiring the ball. Ross was just cutting the ball. It was cutting out of his hand and he just couldn’t find it.
“We’ll let Andy (Anderson) and other guys look at it and see how to fix it. He’s just yanking balls and he doesn’t have a good feel for the ball yet.”
Last season, Tiger starters were 36-67 with a 4.65 ERA. Only the Orioles (28) and the Rays (35) had fewer victories from their starters. The Tigers are hoping for productivity from Ross, 31, who signed a one-year, $5.75-million contract in the offseason. He’s on his fourth organization, but there are some attention-getting parts of his resume.
He made the All-Star team in 2014. Two seasons later, he was the Padres’ Opening Day starter. But that’s when some problems began. He underwent thoracic outlet surgery and “had to learn how to throw again.”
There were positives last season, when Ross (splitting time with the Padres and Cardinals) held right-handed batters to a .176 average, second lowest in the majors.
“I’ve been throwing since October, all offseason, and it takes a lot of reps,” Ross said. “I have a unique delivery and with that comes some deception. I’ve had some success. I’ve had the same delivery. It’s a matter of me executing pitches and attacking the strike zone.
“You’ve got to keep learning and work from that. It’s a matter of finding that rhythm and tempo and getting the game speed down. It comes with experience. I’ve been out there struggling before. I just have to keep working and keep getting ready for the season.”
Around the horn
Ross’ struggles contrasted sharply from the start of Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, who tossed three scoreless innings, while striking out four and walking none. Twenty-eight of his 39 pitches were strikes. “It’s not always fun to see something like that early in spring training, I can tell you that,” Gardenhire said.
… Tigers infielder Ronny Rodriguez delivered the team’s only run with a solo homer off Mets left-hander Daniel Zamora in the seventh inning. It was Rodriguez’s second homer of the spring.
… Mets outfielder Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida, received a rousing ovation from his home state fans after making the trip. Tebow reached base after being hit by a Ross pitch in the first, then struck out twice. He also narrowly missed a diving catch attempt in left, resulting in a double for Tigers center fielder Mikie Mahtook.
… The Tigers will start right-hander Jordan Zimmerman in Saturday’s home game against the Atlanta Braves, who counter with left-hander Max Fried.