The Texas Rangers believed that moving Robbie Ross into the starting rotation would pay off with dividends when the 2014 season started.
Five starts into the year, the team is still waiting for the payoff.
After two promising seasons in middle relief duty, the Rangers gave Ross a starting job and hoped for the best. The first three starts of his career produced two no-decisions and an impressive win where he shut out the Seattle Mariners over 7 2/3 innings on April 15.
Then came the dark side.
Ross was tagged for seven runs in his next start against the Chicago White Sox, and since then it has been a rough go for Ross as a starter. A disastrous outing against the Oakland Athletics on April 30, where Ross was hit for 10 runs in just over three innings, exaggerated the problem.
The Rangers were high on Ross when the season began. Team executives hinted they would give Ross every chance to win a spot in the rotation and keep it. He won the spot, but with more outings like the ones against Seattle and Oakland his grasp on a starting job gets weaker and weaker.
A recent elbow injury to Martin Perez may have saved Ross for the time being. Nick Tepesch is taking Perez’s spot in the rotation for now, so the team likely will keep Ross in a starting slot for the moment.
However, Joe Saunders and Tanner Scheppers are knocking on the door of the rotation and may soon break it down. Scheppers is battling elbow and shoulder inflammation that is not thought to be severe, and he could back within the next several weeks. As for Saunders, he is in rehab for a bruised left foot and has told Rangers brass he wants to start upon his return.
All this means that the clock may be ticking on Ross and his time in the rotation.
It is not too late for Ross, who will be 25 in June. He has shown signs of brilliance, such as his shutout outing against Seattle. The last three starts have been rough on Ross, and any rough stretch can be hard for a young player not used to the rigors of starting pitching.
The longer Texas stays out of the American League West lead, the more likely Rangers management is to tinker with the contents.
That may involve moving Ross back to the bullpen and going with someone else in the starting five.