ARLINGTON, Texas -- For left-handed pitcher Robbie Ross, pitching to left-handed batters was a big-time challenge last year. His splits were startling. Lefties hit .341 against him, while righties batted just .211.
The question is whether those splits will influence opposing managers to go against the grain a bit when it comes to setting a lineup against him. Normally, you'd stack right-handed batters against a left-handed pitcher. But seeing how well lefties hit Ross in 2013, will managers try to put a few more lefties in the lineup and see what happens?
Perhaps Ross' spring training numbers will give those skippers pause. He was much better against left-handed batters and made adjustments that pleased manager Ron Washington, especially locating his fastball inside and getting his breaking ball to "run more to the outside corner instead of running to the middle of the plate."
"He was able to execute pitches. He was able to make pitches in the spring," Washington said. "I think that's what it's going to take as a starter. You have to make pitches. You can have all the movement in the world, but you've got to make pitches. He did it this spring. He made some pitches on the inside part of the plate with his fastball. His two-seamer, he ran it in there with just enough break to catch the inside corner. His slider had movement to the outside."
Ross must now show that the work he put in during the spring translates to getting those lefties out when it counts. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg's lineup against lefty Martin Perez on Tuesday included three lefties, so he might just keep it the same as Ross makes his 2014 debut tonight. But how well Ross gets those lefties out will not only impact how well he starts, but maybe how managers line things up against him as the season progresses.