Storm's Ross unfurls six scoreless frames

Padres pitching prospect shrugs off rocky California League debut

Joe Ross was 5-8 with a 3.75 ERA in the Midwest League last year. (Fort Wayne TinCaps)

By Josh Jackson / | April 9, 2014 2:41 AM

If the California League is typically a tough place for a young pitcher to get comfortable, Joe Ross has proven to be atypical.

The Padres' ninth-ranked prospect scattered three hits and struck out four over six shutout innings to earn his first 2014 win in Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore's 11-9 thrashing of High Desert on Tuesday.

"I felt pretty good. I had good command of my fastball and of my changeup and slider too, but I didn't throw either of them until the fourth inning," Ross said. "The game was going quickly, and then we scored a lot of runs, so I had a lot of security."

In the 20-year-old righty's first start on the hitter-friendly circuit, Ross (1-1) was touched up for four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings against Lancaster.

"I was just a little more comfortable on the mound [Tuesday], and I had a better feel for the ball," he said. "I had a lot of ground balls both times, but last time, they found more holes."

The 2011 first-round pick is the younger brother of Padres hurler Tyson Ross. Both Ross siblings pitched Tuesday night with Tyson and San Diego falling, 8-6, to the Indians. 

"Since they're in Cleveland, they're a couple hours ahead, and I was actually watching [Tyson] pitch on my iPad,'' Ross said. "That's the first time I got to watch him pitch on a day when I was pitching later on."

He spent some time observing his older brother during Spring Training, and he used some of what he learned to help him in Tuesday's win.

"We throw way different, so it's hard to nitpick, but I could see how he works mentally, learn when to take a step off," Ross said. "That worked for me tonight. I went 3-0, and I stepped off and took a breath."

He surrendered a hit to the Mavericks' first batter, Travis Witherspoon, on a successful bunt.

"He just got me a little off guard," Ross admitted. "He push-bunted to second base and caught us all sleeping a bit."

Ross then cruised until there were two outs in the fourth inning. No. 19 Mariners prospect Patrick Kivlehan and Gabriel Guerrero both singled up the middle.

"I wasn't too bothered by [Kivlehan's hit]," Ross said. "It was a broken-bat flare, which is more annoying than anything else. The second was a line drive.

"Since there were two outs, in my head, I said, 'OK, let's just get a ground ball or flyout or whatever.' It's a little different when there's no outs or one out, but with two, I just took a little breath."

He got Jody Lara on a fly to center field to end the inning.

In the top of the fifth, the Storm crossed the plate nine times, which kept Ross off the mound for a while.

"After we scored a couple runs, I was trying to stretch and stay loose. I threw a couple pitches in the bullpen," he said. "It's tough like that -- you want to score a lot of runs, but you also want to go back out there." 

When he did get back to the bump, he was perfect over his final two frames. 

Hunter Renfroe, the Padres' No. 5 prospect, went 3-for-5 with a run scored and a stolen base.

Kivlehan went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and missed the cycle by a double. He also walked. 

Josh Jackson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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