Talking to Robbie Ross on Sunday morning came with a warning not to get too close as he deals with some form of sinus congestion.
He didn’t know if he was contagious, dealing with allergies or just feeling the effects of a dry, dusty climate that can sack anyone from a humid area like his native Kentucky.
That’s not all the left-hander was feeling at Cashman Field, and perhaps some of his fellow pitchers in Texas Rangers camp should be forewarned.
Ross is feeling like a starting pitcher again.
He was back on the mound to wrap up Big League Weekend, tossing three scoreless innings but struggling with his control in his latest bid to be the Rangers’ No. 5 starter.
It’s a pressure-free situation for Ross, who knows that he will be on the Opening Day roster in some capacity. He’ll gladly return to his 2012 role as a reliever, but he wants to be a starter again.
“Honestly, I would love to be in that spot,” Ross said. “If I don’t get that spot, I’m not going to be whining and complaining about it. I’ll be fine wherever they want me to be.
“All these people say don’t worry about right now because you never know what might happen in the next month. You just never know.”
Ross should get one more start before decision time arrives. If he’s going to be a reliever, the Rangers would like to give him a chance to work back into that role and pitch on back-to-back days before breaking camp.
But manager Ron Washington said again that need in the bullpen won’t be the determining factor on the Ross decision. If he’s the best candidate for the final rotation spot, he’ll get the job.
Ross, though, needs to pitch more efficiently to make the rotation. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings March 10, walking three Cleveland Indians, and he threw 79 pitches Sunday.
“I haven’t been completely terrible, but at the same time you want to have good games,” said Ross, who walked three, struck out four and allowed four hits. “I’m happy with the fact that I didn’t give up any runs. I didn’t throw as many strikes as I’d like. I was trying to nitpick too much.”
Starting games is hardly something new for Ross, who was groomed as a starter in the minor leagues before winning a bullpen spot last spring. He used only his cutter and slider in his rookie season but has gone back to his full repertoire this spring.
No matter where he ends up to start 2013, his curveball will be a big pitch for him.
“Now that I’ve been able to throw it in games and situations I’m not used to, it’s nice,” Ross said. “It was a pitch I could just flip in there to get a guy off my fastball or slider, and I can also get a guy off-balance on an 0-0 pitch.”
The field for the No. 5 spot appears to be down to Ross, Randy Wells and Nick Tepesch. Kyle McClellan was a rotation hopeful but will miss more than a month with a strained right lat muscle, and rookie Justin Grimm pitched himself into an early hole this spring.
Martin Perez is still at least six weeks away from being ready after breaking his left arm March 3.
Should Ross win the job, the Rangers would have four bullpen spots to fill. A lot of pitchers trying to win jobs this spring will be affected by the impending decision on Ross.
“Right now, our intention is to give him an opportunity to see how he does as a starter and give him an opportunity to make that fifth spot,” Washington said. “I don’t want him thinking about anything else right now.”