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Ross struggles to start second half

TinCaps starter Joe Ross has two poor outings on his resume for the second half of the season: a 13-hit, six-run start against Lake County on July 1 and Sunday's six-hit, four-run outing that went just 3 1/3 innings.

Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin is concerned for his No. 1 starter, who hasn't earned a win since late April. Ross, who began the year 3-0, has picked up no-decisions or losses in his last 10 starts.

"I don't know what's the problem with Joe," Valentin said. "I think his velocity is still there. I just think he's missing some spots, not really pitching down in the zone. Not only that, but when you get hit early, or you get behind in the count, you can't use your out pitches."

Ross suffered from both those problems Sunday.

With the loss, Ross moved to 3-4 on the season. He has a 10.80 second-half ERA after three starts.

And Valentin is worried his ace has lost a bit of confidence as a result.

"I don't think it's any mechanics situation for him," Valentin said. "Right now, he's going through the motions when probably, in his head, everything he throws is gonna get hit. ... It's not that he's a bad pitcher. He's just got to think that he's better than what he's been showing so far."

Ross would be the last one to admit his confidence has taken a hit, but Valentin can see it in his body language.

"I can tell he's not really comfortable on the mound," Valentin said. "When he starts getting hit, he's a completely just different pitcher -- working slow. Just pretty much when he's got some guys on base, he's putting more attention on the guys on base than getting the hitter out."

Those are correctable problems, Valentin said, but Ross is going to have to solve them internally. The 20-year-old will have to play through his struggles in the meantime.

"I told him, he's gonna be pitching," Valentin said. "I'm going to keep throwing him up there, and he's the only one that can go up there and change everything. It doesn't matter how much work we put on him in the bullpen and stuff like that. When you go on the mound, you gotta do it by yourself."