The A's had a great rotation in 2011, but perhaps greater than anything was the depth. In a season that started out with a rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy. Three of those guys faced major injuries that caused them to miss a good chunk of the season (in Braden's case nearly the entire season). Braden was the first to fall and the first call for a replacement went to Tyson Ross. It made sense. Ross, had come off a great spring where he posted an 0.59 ERA over 15 1/3 innings, with a somewhat low 5.9 K/9 and good 2.3 BB/9 and no HRs allowed despite the thin Arizona air. While the sample size was small virtually everyone who saw him agreed that he was tough to leave off the Opening Day roster and also would be seen very shortly in Oakland. Braden's injury opened the door for Ross (though Ross technically was called up when Michael Wuertz went on the DL it was Braden's injury that allowed Ross to move into the rotation).
On April 22nd, Ross made his first start of the year in Seattle in a shaky outing. But over his next four starts he looked great going 26 2/3 innings of 18 K to 5 BB with only a lone dinger ball holding hitters to a .250/.287/.302 slash line while posting a 1.69 ERA. Then on a day game at the then still named Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, he got the start against the Twins, allowed a single to Denard Span, then three pitches into his at-bat against Trevor Plouffe came off the mound with a left oblique strain. Span would eventually score, the A's would lose that game 11-1 earning Ross adding an insult-to-a-literal-injury loss to Ross' 2011 campaign.
Oblique strains are tough injuries for any player, but particularly pitchers. They stick around, really effect mechanics, and the results from the pitchers recovering oftentimes aren't so hot for the remainder of the season. That was certainly the case with Ross. When he finally did return from the DL he was jettisoned to Sacramento to recover and as the likes of Graham Godfrey, Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman made starts in Oakland he was with the River Cats where he would stay the remainder of the year, failing even to earn a September call up when rosters expanded. On the year in Sacramento he'd make 9 starts, with a 7.61 ERA the belies a still pretty bad 4.92 FIP striking out 8.4 per nine but walking a high 5.4 per nine. Hitters teed off him with a .385 BABIP which seemingly cannot be fully attributable to just poor luck. His 36 2/3 innings in Sacramento really stood in stark contrast to his 36 innings in Oakland that featured a 2.75 ERA and 3.14 FIP aided by an OK 6.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 but stellar 0.3 HR/9.
Ross was added to the Phoenix Desert Dogs roster in the Arizona Fall league and the AFL brought him no respite as he logged 16 2/3 innings of 7.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 but 1.6 HR/9 ball with a 5.94 ERA facing mostly AA and A competition.
For now when the A's talk about the depth of their rotation the Cal-alum Ross is very much an afterthought. His mechanics still portend injury issues in the future and he has shown no ability to get it all together. For a guy who made the Opening Day roster in 2010 out of nowhere this has been a meteoric fall for the lanky righty.
Does Ross have any future in the A's rotation? At this point the rotation appears set with Gonzalez, Cahill, McCarthy, Moscoso. Braden is expected to be back at some point very early in the year so if there are no changes to that (and that is a very big if as I expect Gio to be traded during the winter meetings) it seems there still out to be a fight for that last rotation position. It'll be interesting to see who emerges amid all the talk of the outfield, there is a potential hole or two in the rotation now as we are staring currently at Graham Godfrey and Josh Outman chasing that roster spot, but more holes potentially being created with the trading of our valuable trade chips. It is incredible how in just one year such a big source of depth suddenly seems so shallow. But it is this very lack of depth that seemingly gives Ross another opportunity. We just may not have seen the end of him.