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Ross is one the top prospects in the San Diego Padres’ organization. He has held opponents to a .232 batting average this season.

No setbacks this time

Staying healthy key for Fort Wayne starter

Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Joe Ross has the second-lowest ERA among TinCaps starters at 2.71 and has thrown more innings (66 1/3 ) than any other Fort Wayne pitcher. He will play in the league All-Star game today in Dayton.

For the first time in his professional career, Joe Ross made it to the All-Star break healthy.

The TinCaps starter was rewarded with a Midwest League Eastern Division All-Star game invitation.

Ross was Fort Wayne’s No. 1 starter throughout the team’s playoff-clinching first half and will represent the TinCaps rotation today in Dayton.

The 20-year-old has the second-lowest ERA among TinCaps starters with a 2.71 mark and, after setbacks in previous seasons, has thrown more innings (66 1/3 ) than any other Fort Wayne pitcher.

“Staying healthy is the biggest thing, and that kind of just allowed me to go through starts and not be limited by pitch count and stuff like that,” Ross said. “It’s good to know that if I’m healthy, I can do it. You know what I mean? Because last year, obviously it would have been like a great thing to achieve, but I didn’t even make it to the All-Star game healthwise. It’s good to know just inside that when I’m healthy, I have the ability to play that well and make it.”

The right-hander, who is one of the top prospects for the San Diego Padres, is 3-2 in 12 starts. He has held opponents to a .232 batting average and, in his two most recent starts, went 13 2/3 innings with five hits and no runs.

He also struck out nine in those appearances.

“I owe a lot to the defense and catchers and pitching coach and all that,” Ross said. “It feels great. I was happy when I found out. I can’t wait. It should be fun.”

Ross’ selection is a reflection of a strong start, and finish, to the first half of play.

He was the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week during the first week of the season, and appeared dominant at times, consistent at others.

He has not picked up a win since April 25 but has lasted at least five innings in all but one his past nine starts. He hasn’t given up five runs in more than a month.

For pitching coach Burt Hooton, that is a victory.

“The biggest thing is just settling into a routine,” Hooton said. “It’s helping him out a lot. I’m working with him mainly on just focusing and concentrating and competing on every pitch. A lot of it is just the mental side of it.”

While a Low-A all-star game isn’t the biggest goal for Ross, it is a step toward where he wants to be. The little improvements along the way, Hooton said, have him excited for what’s to come from Ross.

“Over the course of time, he’s learning how to use all of his pitches and when to use them all,” Hooton said. “I think he’s been doing real good all season the first five innings, and if you look at his record, a lot of the runs he’s been giving up are from the fifth inning on.

“That’s kind of when he was losing focus early in the season, but he’s doing much better in that aspect of it and getting deeper into games, and maintaining his focus and competitiveness.”