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Ross' return to form no surprise to Padres

Noted work ethic helping righty excel in spring, make strong case for rotation
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When Tyson Ross joined the Rangers last year, he was fresh off a lost season, a surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome and a recovery process he admits was probably over-accelerated.

The 30-year-old right-hander entered Padres camp this spring under decidedly different circumstances, and thus far, it's showing in the results. In a 4-0 loss to Kansas City on Monday, Ross pitched four scoreless frames, allowing one hit and one walk. He's making a strong rotation case, having posted a 3.27 ERA in four Cactus League outings.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When Tyson Ross joined the Rangers last year, he was fresh off a lost season, a surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome and a recovery process he admits was probably over-accelerated.

The 30-year-old right-hander entered Padres camp this spring under decidedly different circumstances, and thus far, it's showing in the results. In a 4-0 loss to Kansas City on Monday, Ross pitched four scoreless frames, allowing one hit and one walk. He's making a strong rotation case, having posted a 3.27 ERA in four Cactus League outings.

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"He's just enjoying playing baseball again," said Padres catcher Austin Hedges. "He had to go through that grind to get there, and you never know what's going to happen. Some guys don't come back after surgery. He's in a really good place right now. He knows he can pitch at the big league level and dominate at the big league level when he's healthy. That's how he feels right now, and he's proving it."

The road back wasn't an easy one. Ross was the Padres' Opening Day starter in 2016 after three seasons in which he posted a 3.07 ERA. He was roughed up by the Dodgers that day and would miss the remainder of the year with a shoulder injury.

After his October surgery, the Padres didn't tender Ross a contract. He signed a one-year deal with Texas and wouldn't pitch until June. Over 12 appearances, Ross slumped to a 7.71 ERA before he was released in mid-September.

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Ross latched on with the Padres on a non-roster invite. And even though he entered camp on the outside of the club's rotation battle, he had one thing going for him: an uninhibited offseason to get back up to par.

A year prior, Ross couldn't lift more than five pounds until January. He rested and watched enviously as teammates posted videos of their workouts on social media.

"This year, I was able to lift, get my workouts in the way I wanted to, do whatever throwing program I wanted to," Ross said. "Last year, I was just behind the eight ball. It was a long recovery from the surgery. ... I came in out of shape and trying to get in shape, while getting my arm going at the same time, and I never caught up."

Few in the Padres' organization doubted whether Ross would put in the necessary work.

"He's always going to work his butt off," said Hedges. "He's going to recover better, prepare better than anybody else. The guy is a beast."

Added Padres skipper Andy Green: "He's as hard a worker in the weight room as anybody you'll ever come across. ... You know when you see a guy wired that way that they'll do everything possible to get back."

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Ross' performances this spring have him squarely on the fence for a rotation spot. Clayton Richard and Bryan Mitchell are already in. Dinelson Lamet probably is, too. After that, Ross is one of five pitchers seemingly battling for two openings.

"He's doing everything he can possibly do right now," Green said.

Ross, for one, relishes the competition.

"All the guys are hungry," he said. "I enjoy seeing how much talent we have in camp. They're going to have some tough decisions to make. But I'm happy that I'm healthy and able to put my best foot forward."

It took countless hours of recovery behind the scenes to get there. These days, Ross is often one of the last players at the team's complex after workouts, keeping his arm loose with weighted-ball exercises.

On multiple occasions this spring, Green has noted that only the hardest-working pitchers come back from serious shoulder ailments. Ross, as he is wont to do, downplayed the nature of that work.

"That's just my job," Ross said. "I've got to do it. Otherwise I'd be sitting at home watching these guys play on TV."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Tyson Ross