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Lefty Ross making case for bullpen spot

Reliever has impressed in four Cactus League appearances; Gonzalez solid in start; Garcia has big day at plate
Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After undergoing season-ending back surgery last August and spending most of the three months prior on the disabled list with elbow issues, White Sox lefty Robbie Ross Jr. came to Camelback in early March with his fair share of baggage, health-wise. But he also seems to have brought with him some of the stuff that made him one of the American League's more reliable left-handed specialists during much of his early career with Texas and Boston.

Ross, 28, has yet to allow a run in 4 2/3 innings of spring work, including scoreless frames Wednesday and Friday. After working twice in three days, Ross didn't pitch in Chicago's 5-2 victory over the Dodgers on Saturday. For the spring, he has scattered two hits, walked one and hit one batter while pounding the strike zone, throwing 23 of his 29 pitches for strikes.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After undergoing season-ending back surgery last August and spending most of the three months prior on the disabled list with elbow issues, White Sox lefty Robbie Ross Jr. came to Camelback in early March with his fair share of baggage, health-wise. But he also seems to have brought with him some of the stuff that made him one of the American League's more reliable left-handed specialists during much of his early career with Texas and Boston.

Ross, 28, has yet to allow a run in 4 2/3 innings of spring work, including scoreless frames Wednesday and Friday. After working twice in three days, Ross didn't pitch in Chicago's 5-2 victory over the Dodgers on Saturday. For the spring, he has scattered two hits, walked one and hit one batter while pounding the strike zone, throwing 23 of his 29 pitches for strikes.

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"He's got a good breaking ball, live arm, quick arm, deceptive, obviously hitters don't pick him up very well," manager Rick Renteria said. "Very composed. He's been around, he's had some things to deal with over the course of the last couple years, but all in all, he looks healthy."

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Ross came to the White Sox on March 4 on a Minor League deal as the six-year veteran hopes to bounce back from a 2017 season that saw him make only eight appearances with a 7.00 ERA. He was shelved with left elbow inflammation at the beginning of June and then had surgery to repair a herniated disc a little more than two months later.

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Prior to his abbreviated stint last year, Ross had four strong seasons with the Rangers in 2012-13 and the Red Sox in 2015-16. In those years, he had ERAs of 2.22, 3.03, 3.86 and 3.25 over 231 appearances. He struggled in 2014, when the Rangers experimented with him as a starter.

For a lefty, Ross pitches well against right-handed hitters, holding them to a career OPS of .723, just 11 points higher than lefties. The White Sox have used him freely against righties this spring.

"When clubs start putting in switch hitters and matching up the lineups ... it's nice to have somebody that's able to minimize damage," Renteria said.

Gonzalez sharp this time

After a shaky second spring outing in which he allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings, Chicago right-hander Miguel Gonzalez turned in a solid start Saturday, throwing 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and one walk while striking out four.

Gonzalez threw 84 pitches and said he met his main goal of pitching into the sixth. His only walk cost him -- Chase Utley subsequently hit a two-run homer in the fourth -- but otherwise, Gonzalez was sharp and efficient.

Video: LAD@CWS: Gonzalez strikes out Peter swinging

"We know that the Dodgers are aggressive from the get-go, swinging first pitch. I was pounding the zone," Gonzalez said. "If you're pounding strikes and you're throwing the ball where you want it, I think it's an advantage. … You're going to get quick outs and that's really important to get deep into the game."

Gonzalez began the day looking like he might be in trouble again, as three of the first four hitters he faced reached on base hits. But he worked his way out of the jam after the leadoff hitter was caught stealing.

Stats less important than stamina for Lopez

Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez got knocked around some by the Cubs on Friday, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, including a pair of homers, but the White Sox accomplished their main mission in getting him to throw 4 1/3 innings as the 24-year-old gets closer to regular-season workloads.

"We still wanted to stretch him out and get his pitch count up, which we did," Renteria said. "At some point, once we get his pitch count up, we measure in terms of how it's now affecting the totality of the game before we take him out. … It's just a balancing act. I think we did a nice job in allowing him to continue to stretch himself out a little bit more [although] the results weren't what we wanted."

Worth noting

Avisail Garcia had nine total bases in the first three innings Saturday, with a first-inning single, a second-inning double and a fourth-inning double. He upped his Cactus League average to .390 this year.

Video: LAD@CWS: Garcia drives an RBI double to left-center

The White Sox and Dodgers both sported green versions of their Spring Training caps as the cohabitants of Camelback Ranch faced off Saturday. Select Sox hats will be auctioned off later this season to benefit Chicago White Sox Charities.

Up next

The White Sox visit the A's at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa Sunday. James Shields, just announced as Chicago's Opening Day starter, will be on the mound against Jesus Luzardo. First pitch is 3:05 p.m. CT. Fans can listen live on Gameday Audio.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the White Sox on Saturday.

Chicago White Sox, Miguel Gonzalez, Robbie Ross Jr.