MESA, Ariz. -- Once upon a time, Christopher Young and Tyson Ross were All-Stars in San Diego, anchors in the Padres' rotation across multiple seasons.That time has come and gone. On Saturday, Ross took the hill for two innings in an 8-3 Cactus League defeat against Oakland. Young followed with
MESA, Ariz. -- Once upon a time, Christopher Young and Tyson Ross were All-Stars in San Diego, anchors in the Padres' rotation across multiple seasons.
That time has come and gone. On Saturday, Ross took the hill for two innings in an 8-3 Cactus League defeat against Oakland. Young followed with two innings of his own. Both looked sharp, for the most part. But both have work to do this spring if they're to earn a place in the Opening Day rotation.
The roster math isn't favorable for either of them. Three rotation places are up for grabs, and Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo have the early edge for two of those spots. That could leave six pitchers fighting for one job.
"Today was a great start for both of them," said Padres manager Andy Green. "They're definitely squarely in the mix."
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Neither Ross nor Young is concerned about that race just yet. Both are shaking off some rust. Young was released by the Royals in June, and Ross suffered the same fate with Texas in September.
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Young worked two scoreless frames on Saturday, surrendering only a walk. Ross, meanwhile, ran into some trouble, allowing two runs on three hits. But he struck out four.
The 30-year-old Ross last pitched for San Diego on Opening Day 2016. He was knocked around by the Dodgers and placed on the disabled list a few days later with a shoulder strain. He wouldn't pitch again that season, before undergoing October surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.
It was a bit of a hurried recovery for Ross, who slumped to a 7.71 ERA in 12 appearances for Texas in 2017. He's convinced things are different this year.
"I'm prepared this spring," said Ross. "I had a nice long offseason to do the strength training I needed, get the throwing in. I'm in a good spot physically. Last year, I felt like I was playing catch-up the whole time."
If anyone knows what vintage Tyson Ross looks like, it's the man who caught him Saturday. Former Dodger A.J. Ellis mustered just two singles in 14 at-bats, while striking out eight times against Ross.
"Tyson was always my nemesis," Ellis said. "It seemed like I guessed wrong every time, because his fastball and slider look so much the same to me. It's nice to be able to put a finger down and know what's coming. ... I don't notice too much of a difference. I just know the ball is coming out really well."
Like Ross, Young is fighting to find his old form. He, too, hasn't been particularly effective over the past two years. At 38, however, Young faces somewhat longer odds.
He looked up to the challenge on Day 1. Young's calling card has always been his ability to induce weak contact on pitches up in the zone. He recorded four easy fly-ball outs Saturday.
"I'm competing against myself," Young said. "My goal is to be the best I can be. I don't worry about stuff externally. If I go out and pitch like I have when I've been good in my career, I feel like I should be a big league pitcher."
Ross feels the same way. Surely, Matt Strahm, Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin and Jordan Lyles do, too. Realistically, however, only one or two places are available for them.
"It's a long list of guys," Green said. "It's going to be a good battle. ... Last spot I'd say is absolutely wide open."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.