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Healthy Ross 'having fun' in successful spring

Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Perhaps tipping his hand, manager Andy Green said hours before Sunday's game, a 2-1 win over the Dodgers, that he foresaw some big things for Tyson Ross if the big right-hander, a non-roster invitee, had a good outing.

Healthy again, Ross went ahead and kept the Dodgers hitless for four innings, and the matchup was not lost on him.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Perhaps tipping his hand, manager Andy Green said hours before Sunday's game, a 2-1 win over the Dodgers, that he foresaw some big things for Tyson Ross if the big right-hander, a non-roster invitee, had a good outing.

Healthy again, Ross went ahead and kept the Dodgers hitless for four innings, and the matchup was not lost on him.

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It was against the Dodgers on April 4, 2016, that Ross suffered through an Opening Day battering in what at one time looked like the former ace's final start in a Padres uniform. He sustained a season-ending shoulder injury before his next start and struggled in 12 games for the Rangers last season.

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"I definitely thought about it ... but it's just another Spring Training game," said Ross, who faced off against Clayton Kershaw on Sunday in his latest audition for a rotation spot, just as he did on that day in 2016. "I had to get out there and get my work in, but at the same time, it's always in the back of my mind. That was probably one of the worst outings of my career, and I missed a whole season after it.

"I think about it often. But today was just, come in here, get my work in and take another step in the positive direction."

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After the four no-hit innings, Enrique Hernandez blooped a single into shallow center field to lead off the fifth. Green was immediately out of the dugout, motioning for Craig Stammen in the bullpen.

Ross ended up charged with a run after Stammen gave up a two-out RBI double to Kershaw.

"It's been the progression you want during Spring Training. It was fun out there," Ross said.

"It's back to like old times. I'm back out there having fun and feeling good, and executing and pitching well. It's no fun when you're in pain and trying to get around that and figure out a way to get outs. When you can get up there on the mound and be confident and attack hitters, it's a lot of fun."

"He's been good. There is no other way to describe him," Green said. "It's been fun to watch."

Green stopped short of naming Ross to the team only because he isn't one "to make unilateral decisions." But Ross, with one start left this spring, "is doing everything he possibly can at this point in time."

Ross gave up two earned runs in his first appearance this spring but has allowed just three runs and seven hits in 13 innings since. His spring ERA is a spiffy 3.00.

"It's exciting to see him like that," Green said. "The velocity is back; the slider is back. His arm stroke is cleaner. He's locating fastballs, for the most part, better than I saw him do a few years back. He's wired to compete, and I think he has a lot of good things in front of him."

After all Ross endured the previous two seasons, this success comes with a new perspective and appreciation for the journey.

"It was long going through it, but now I look back and it was just yesterday that I was in San Diego pitching really well and having a lot of fun out there," Ross said. "Going through it, it took a while. But looking back, it was just a blink of the eye, and I feel like I'm back to where I used to be. I'm looking forward to the season."

Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Padres on Sunday.

San Diego Padres, Tyson Ross