Tigers get Tyson Ross on 1-year deal

December 10th, 2018

LAS VEGAS --  was looking for a spot in a Major League rotation, and didn't want to wait until Spring Training to sign. The Tigers were looking for a veteran starter with upside to compete for a rotation spot, and didn't want to commit to a multi-year contract to do it.
"It was definitely early," Ross said Tuesday of the one-year deal he signed with the Tigers, "but Detroit established themselves from the get-go and made a commitment to considering me as a starter. It was a good opportunity for me, and my agent did a great job on making it a good deal."
As a result, what was once expected to be a lengthy search for starting pitching depth is over by the midway point of this week's Winter Meetings, allowing general manager Al Avila and his front office to spend the rest of their time at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort looking for a shortstop while preparing a list of options for Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
Ross, meanwhile, will focus his offseason on trying to build off a strong finish after his second season since undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He went from the Padres' rotation to the Cardinals' bullpen this past summer, thanks to an August waiver claim; he's out to prove that he can not only spend a full season as a starter, but serve as an effective one.
"I think the biggest thing for me coming off of last season was just proving [to] everyone that I was healthy," Ross said on a Tuesday conference call with reporters. "I came back from that TOS surgery in '17, pitched for Texas but wasn't quite right, and I really just wanted to re-establish myself as a healthy big leaguer, and show everyone what I can do. So coming through 2018, being a starter for the Pads for 22-23 starts and then moving over to St. Louis and pitching out of the bullpen, my biggest thing was just showing everyone that I was healthy and ready to go. My agent told me about the opportunity with the Tigers, and especially the opportunity to start. It's just a good fit for me."
Thoracic outlet syndrome was the condition that derailed former Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman's career. It essentially did the same to Ross coming off back-to-back solid seasons in San Diego in 2014 and 2015. He not only delivered 64 starts in the two-year stretch. His 3.03 ERA ranked 13th among Major League pitchers with at least 60 starts in that span, while his 3.11 Fielding Independent Pitching ranked 11th.
His sign that something was off wasn't numbness or tingling in his fingers, like many pitchers who suffer from TOS. The worry was the pain in his shoulder that wouldn't go away. After a disastrous Opening Day start in San Diego in 2016, he saw a doctor to figure it out.
"Because I didn't have the typical symptoms, it was a little bit harder to diagnose," Ross said. "It took a lot longer than a lot of other guys."
His ensuing surgery sent him into Spring Training of 2017 without much of a throwing program, and he struggled through a season in Texas because of it. He spent last offseason teaching himself how to throw again.
He threw more fastballs and fewer sliders in 2017. In 2018, those percentages were closer to even, both comprising just over 40 percent of his pitches. His slider wasn't much different between the two seasons, according to Statcast™, but he seemed to trust it more.
"I'm not a typical three-pitch pitcher," Ross said. "I kind of use my slider as a changeup in hitters' counts. I have the ability and the feel for a slider to drop it in, moreso than throw a changeup in situations like that. I think having a high percentage of sliders correlates to having success on the mound for myself."
Now, he believes he's ready to get back to his old form.
"I knew the pitcher that I have been in the past, and who I can be," Ross said. "And I think there's a lot left in the tank. Last year was just kind of getting my feet back underneath me, a step in the right direction, and I'm looking forward to many more years of high-quality pitching."