On Thursday night, Tucson Padres starter Tyson Ross picked up a loss after allowing two runs and five hits in four innings.
It wasn't his best start; it wasn't his worst, either. Most importantly, though, it was progress.
After spending two months as a long reliever with the San Diego Padres, Ross was sent down to Tucson to build back his stamina so he could soon replace injured Clayton Richard in San Diego's starting rotation.
The "all right" performance Thursday, as Ross described it, wasn't as dominant as his first since his return - a three-hit, scoreless gem over five innings against Las Vegas. But Ross improved his pitch count, pushing it into the 70s on Thursday.
"Physically I'm feeling good, not too sore" the next day, Ross said before Tucson's 8-7 win over Colorado Springs in 10 innings at Kino Stadium on Friday night. "Hopefully next time out I'll get another 10 to 15 pitches maybe and just keep getting lengthened out. It's not an exact science, but you don't want to jump into too much at once."
Ross began the season as San Diego's fifth starter, but after just three appearances he partially dislocated his left shoulder while batting. Fortunately for the right-hander, the injury had no effect on his throwing, but it did send him to the bullpen because of his inability to swing.
Now Ross is stretching out his stamina in Tucson, and pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said the 26-year-old is close to getting back to the major leagues.
"He's ready to go," Patrick said. "If he had to go back to the big leagues, he's a guy that could probably go out and pitch five or six innings no problem. His pitch count is built up; I mean he threw 70 pitches (Thursday). He can well go up to 85, possibly 90 pitches right now."
In addition to getting back into starting condition, Ross is also working on his off-speed pitches, which fell out of favor when he was pitching relief.
Patrick said Ross specifically needs to work on his changeup, which has been a little soft during his first two outings.
"As I make these strides with off-speed and different things like that," Ross said, "once I get everything on the same level I can put it all together, and I'll be ready to go."
Although Ross' second stay in Tucson might be short-lived (he made two appearances earlier during his rehab), he's already made a strong impression on Patrick by proving his mental toughness, swinging back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen.
"There's only a few guys that (are) able to do that," Patrick said. "Looking at Tyson and talking to Tyson, he's one of the guys who can be a swingman. He can go to the bullpen and get you six outs if need be, he can go in the rotation and pitch deep into ball games if need be. To me that's a plus."
Tucson 8, Colorado Springs 7
• Highlight: With two out and a 0-2 count, Jaff Decker slapped a single to center to score Gregorio Petit and give the Padres (54-46) a walk-off win in the 10th inning over the Sky Sox (52-46). Tucson had a chance to win the game in the ninth, with the bases loaded and one out, but failed to convert. Closer Miles Mikolas kept the Padres alive with two innings of hitless baseball and picked up the win. Friday's game at Kino Stadium was the polar opposite of the pitcher's duel the night prior as both teams loaded the bases and scored three runs apiece in the first inning. Tucson trailed 7-5 entering the eighth inning but rallied to tie the game before Decker's extra-inning heroics.
• Big number: 4: Recently acquired third baseman Scott Moore went 4 for 5 in his first start for the Padres and had a two-run home run to left center field in the third inning.
• Tonight's starters: LHP Robbie Erlin (6-2, 5.20 ERA), Tucson, vs. RHP Collin McHugh (3-2, 3.08 ERA), Colorado Springs
• What: Colorado Springs at Padres
• When: 7:05 p.m.
• Radio: 1290-AM