ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rookie reliever Robbie Ross wears a cowboy hat and trots to the bullpen before every game with his trusty stuffed horse that you'd find at a toy store. But right after the All-Star break, Ross felt like he was bucked from that horse and was busy trying to climb back on.
Before Sunday's game, the 23-year-old Ross had a 7.71 ERA in his last 10 appearances (seven innings) to see his ERA go from a miniscule 0.95 to 1.82. His confidence might have hit a new low Saturday when he came in to pitch to Prince Fielder in the ninth inning of a tie game and walked him despite getting ahead in the count at 0-2.
Manager Ron Washington sensed that Ross was down and tried to pick him up by talking to him after that inning. Ross said he appreciated it.
"Sometimes you doubt yourself and you need to some confidence back," Ross said. "It’s a tough game and sometimes you don’t have your best stuff. Wash being able to tell me that was really reassuring and to understand that I don’t have to put so much pressure on myself and that there are guys behind me that can make plays. You’re not always going to have your best stuff, but go out there and battle and do the best you can."
Sometimes baseball can give you another chance very quickly. That's what happened to Ross. He was called on to face Fielder with two outs in the seventh inning Sunday, this time with the Tigers slugger representing the tying run in a 6-3 game. Ross got ahead 0-2 again, but then got Fielder to fly out. The Rangers went on to win 8-3.
"It felt really good," Ross said. "I didn’t get him last night, so I really wanted to get him out. I thought, ‘I’m not getting him into a 3-2 tonight.’ I just wanted to pound the zone and not put so much pressure on myself to get a strikeout, just get a ground ball."
Washington was pleased to see that Ross didn't back down or look nervous.
"He attacked him," Washington said. "Robbie Ross is not one of those that lives on the edges. He’s gotten to where he is because he attacks. If you get hit, you get hit. But you can’t shy away. Tonight, he came in and attacked. The first two pitches were strikes. He beat him with a fastball and got the job done. He attacked him. I never lost my faith in him. I was just trying to confirm his faith in his own self."