ORLANDO, Fla. -- When last season ended, Rangers reliever Robbie Ross asked to again be allowed to compete for a spot in the starting rotation. The Rangers challenged him to show them the commitment that such a transition would require. And that he has done.
He has made three starts in the Dominican Winter League and will make two more before beginning his offseason. He has worked hard on his changeup to enhance the fastball-slider repertoire that has made him one of baseball's best setup men.
"He has shown us the commitment to do it," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.
Ross was in the mix for a spot last spring, but the Rangers shifted him to the bullpen for the regular season. In 65 appearances, the 24-year-old left-hander compiled a 3.03 ERA and had 19 walks and 58 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings.
Still, his desire to start remains.
"We basically said we want to see the level of commitment," Daniels said. "And he's showing that to us."
With Toros del Este, he's 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA, but to the Rangers, the results are less important than his ability -- and willingness -- to throw his secondary pitches.
"He's going to have to show a greater complement of pitches to do it, but he's got natural life and throws strikes," Daniels said. "He wants to do it. The biggest thing we've learned is that the guys who really truly want to start are going to do whatever they have to do and show that commitment. Those are usually the guys that have success."
Ross' ability to win one of the five rotation spots is another matter. With Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando, the Rangers have one of baseball's deepest rotations.
"Health permitting, we're in a good spot," Daniels said. "Matt didn't really pitch last year [two starts]. I'm optimistic based on how he's feeling, but we need to see it. I think Yu is going to be OK, but he finished the year with a little bit of the back issue. I don't think you can ever have enough. At the end of the day, if [Ross] goes back to the bullpen, it's not the end of the world, either. That's what we told him. We'll put you in a spot to come in and compete for it again. I think he's doing himself well by going down and competing."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.