Now on to the questions ~
WTH: First of all, can you tell me about your pitch arsenal? What pitches do you use? Best pitch(es)? Velocity? Movement?
RS: My pitches include both a 4 seam and 2 seam fastball, a change up, slider, and curveball. I use all of them throughout the course of game but depend on my fastball to set the tone for the game. All the other pitches work off my fastball, so I would say a located fastball is my best pitch. This season my velocity has been down slightly but has been steadily picking back up.
WTH: You've never been primarily a strikeout pitcher. What is the key to your success on the mound?
RS: Pitching to contact provides the greatest chance of success. Throwing the ball in the strike zone forces the batters to swing at pitches and keeps pitch counts down. Obviously there are times when a strikeout is needed, but even a strikeout requires getting two strikes on the hitter first! Taking all of that into consideration, making quality pitches down in the zone (or at the top) puts the odds in my favor.
WTH: At 21, you were somewhat young for the AA level in 2011. Can you tell me a little about how you handled that and what you learned about yourself in getting thrown into the fire, so to speak? (Also, how glad were you not to have to pitch in Lancaster again?)
RS: All I will say about Lancaster is I never want to go back, ever. Experiencing AA baseball at 21 was a great opportunity for me. Of course, it took me a little while to settle in and realize I belonged there, but it opened up my eyes to quality baseball games. Everyone plays smarter here than in A ball. I learned so much from my older teammates like Jimmy Van Ostrand and Brian Esposito not only about the game itself, but also about how to handle myself on and off the field. It helped me mature and "grow up" much quicker. The 2011 season will always be one of my fondest seasons because of the people I was around and how much I learned about baseball.
WTH: Over the winter, my readers voted you most likely to be the Breakthrough Pitcher for 2012, largely based on the improvement you showed toward the end of last season. So far, so good - 5 of your last 6 starts have been excellent [NOTE: Ross had another strong start on Wednesday after this interview was complete]. Do you feel that you are, indeed, making that next step in your development?
RS: First I'm honored that I was voted to be the Breakthrough Pitcher for 2012! Thanks everyone! I honestly do believe I have made great strides since the last third of the 2011 season. It all deals with my mindset and approach to the game. I finally gave everything over to God and trusted that He has great plans for me (Romans 8:28 is a verse that my life proves). As soon as I gave results and my career to Him, a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. I literally felt lighter. Now it's all about going out and enjoying pitching. No more stressing out on the mound or trying to do too much. Pitching relaxed, calm, and focused is much more efficient than over complicating the simplicity of the task at hand. In addition, this year I have worked on gaining confidence in the game. Confidence shows on the field and directly translates into your performance, so the more you have the better you will be! As always, all glory goes to God since everything I have comes from Him.
WTH: You were a good hitter at Corpus in 2011. I mean, a REALLY good hitter (.286/.304/.476). Are you going to miss getting to hit when Houston moves to the AL?
RS: Of course I'm going to miss hitting! I missed it my few seasons in pro ball! Who doesn't like hitting??
WTH: If you could steal a pitch from any pitcher in the Astros system, whose would it be?
RS: I would definitely take Bud Norris' slider. It has so much spin and looks just like his fastball until the very end. The later the break the more effective the pitch.
WTH: Which player in the Astros system would you least like to face in the batters box?
RS: My teammate Jose Martinez would be a formidable opponent in the box. He has solid plate discipline and squares up more balls than most other players. He's also a quality teammate who brings energy to the whole team.
WTH: You got married over the off-season. How difficult is marriage for a minor league player?
RS: Because Houston is only 3 hours away from Corpus, being apart from my wife has not been as difficult as most people experience. She has been able to come out and see me at least every other weekend. However, it would be much more enjoyable if she could travel with me everywhere we go. Additionally, she encourages me when things get tough and always supports my endeavors in the game. Having her in my life has greatly enhanced my ability in the game.
WTH: Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know and might be surprised to hear?
RS: These are always tough ones to answer. I am turning into a car fanatic. One of my dreams is to restore a classic car from the muscle car era. I plan on purchasing a 1973 Chevy truck from a good friend and mentor of mine this off season that will be my first "project". Cars and baseball. Classic American passions.
Thank you for your time, Ross. Congratulations on your marriage and the best of luck to you as you continue to make your way up the ladder in life and in baseball!