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Rookie Ross solidifies Rangers' bullpen

Rookie Ross solidifies Rangers' bullpen

Rookie Ross solidifies Rangers' bullpen
ARLINGTON -- When Justin Grimm was called up from Double-A Frisco to make his Major League debut, he thought he'd have to stay in a hotel until he was sent down.

But thanks to Robbie Ross, that wasn't necessary. Ross offered an extra room in his apartment to Grimm, who he lived with while they were teammates last year at high Class A Myrtle Beach.

"Robbie's awesome. I love living with Robbie," Grimm said. "He's one of those people, with his faith and the way he goes about his life, he makes you a better person. He does things the right way, and I think that's why he has a lot of success."

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Despite having three relievers on the disabled list, the Rangers' bullpen has managed to post the second-best ERA in the American League this year (2.93). They have leaned on veterans like setup man Mike Adams and All-Star closer Joe Nathan. But Ross, the only other healthy reliever left from Texas' Opening Day roster, has also proved to be reliable.

"He's been great. He's going out there and showing veteran presence," Adams said. "His confidence should be sky high right now. We have total confidence in him. Even in the middle of innings with runners on, he's found ways to pitch out of it."

"He was a starter in the Minors. For him to be able to step up and get loose every day is impressive," Nathan said. "The only thing he needs to do is be able to adjust when the league adjusts to him. Hopefully he can ride this wave as long as he can."

Ross is 6-0 with a 1.03 ERA, 26 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 appearances. Those six wins are the most by a reliever in the Major Leagues and the most by any pitcher without a loss. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 19 1/3 innings and hasn't been charged with an earned run in his last 18 outings, spanning 26 2/3 innings.

"I'm just going out there and having fun," Ross said. "I'm just soaking it all in. I'm getting experience and learning all the different types of ways to pitch and how to approach the game. I've been enjoying it."

Ross began last season with Myrtle Beach and later moved up to Frisco. Between those two teams, he made 26 starts, going 10-5 with a 2.34 ERA while striking out 134 batters and issuing 33 walks. This year has marked the first in Ross' career he has been used primarily as a reliever.

"Honestly, I thought I was either going to be in Double-A or Triple-A as a starter," Ross said. "I never expected to be a reliever, and it ended up being here. It's pretty awesome."

Ross admits the transition from the rotation to the bullpen wasn't completely smooth.

"It was really different," Ross, 23, said. "In Spring Training, it kind of got easier toward the end, because I knew what I had to do. I didn't know how to approach the whole 'get ready, get down; get ready, get down' thing. It's been a good adjustment so far."

Ross, who admits he would love to become a starter again, has thrived in his relieving role, which hasn't kept him from winning games. He became the first reliever in the modern era to earn wins in four of his first six outings and the first in more than three decades to win six times in his first 23 games.

"I love when he comes in," Mike Napoli said. "He gets the ball and he goes after people and works quick. He goes right after hitters and he has good stuff. He's definitely stepping up."

Manager Ron Washington even admitted that not including Ross, a first-year middle reliever, on his AL All-Star roster was a tough decision.

"It was very tough to leave out Robbie Ross," Washington said. "There are so many players that are out there that are deserving of being on the All-Star team, but you can only pick so many. Every year, someone in this process gets left out."

Ross is one of many young players contributing to the Rangers' success this year, including several rookies. Martin Perez and Grimm have both won games for Texas, each time in their first big league start. Tanner Scheppers earned his first career save Saturday, while Leonys Martin has five extra-base hits and five RBIs in eight games this year. All four began the season in the Minors.

"It's been cool. I've played with a lot of these guys," Ross said. "It's been awesome to see the Rangers are starting to go with the younger crowd and have faith in guys like that. It's encouraging to know that you've got guys that, if someone gets hurt, there's someone that can pick up the spot."

Ross' productive rookie campaign, however, hasn't kept him from being treated like a rookie. He wears a cowboy hat and vest to the bullpen before every game, along with a mohawk he takes with him wherever he goes.

"If you can handle walking out to the bullpen with a cowboy hat and a little vest, you can handle any situation in baseball," Adams said. "I think we're going to credit [his success] to the outfit he wears every day."

Christian Corona is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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