Robbie Ross focused on his changeup

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-handed pitcher Robbie Ross wasn't really sure how to explain last season.

"I started off really hot, and then everything went to shambles," Ross said.

Ross gave up one earned run in his first 24 appearances (24⅓ innings) in 2013 and looked to be on his way to another solid season, but things quickly fell apart. After the first two months of the season, Ross sported a 4.74 ERA, and opponents hit .276 against him. He allowed 42 hits in his remaining 38 innings pitched.

"It felt like I was pressing too much and put all the pressure on myself instead of just relaxing and pitching," Ross said.

The most glaring number from Ross' season: a .344 batting average allowed against left-handed batters.

"Those are the guys you are supposed to get out," Ross said. "The lefties got me last year. It was weird."

After the season, Ross was asked if he still wanted to start. It's something he's said repeatedly that he wants to do. The club asked him to go to the Dominican Republic and play winter ball to get ready.

"It was a good experience," Ross said. "It was tough taking the offseason and doing that. A lot of guys don't want to do that just like I didn't want to do that. But to get better, that's what I had to do."

Ross focused on his secondary pitches, particularly his changeup. It's a pitch he knows he must have to add to his fastball and slider if he's going to start.

"The changeup was way better [in the Dominican]," Ross said. "I always tried to throw them and work on them when I wasn't in the game, but when I got in a game, I threw my two best ones -- fastball and slider."

Ross said he won't be afraid to throw all of his pitches this spring in an effort to earn that rotation spot.

"This is what I want to do," Ross said.

Now he has to go out and win the job.