GLENDALE — Chicago White Sox reliever Robbie Ross Jr. has always been religious. But this offseason tested his faith like none he has ever experienced.
Coming off a 2016 for the Boston Red Sox in which he appeared in 54 games, posting a 3.25 ERA and holding left-handed hitters to a .188 batting average, Ross hoped to cement a lasting role for the contending club.
But his 2017 season was derailed early by herniated discs in his back that held him to just eight appearances in April and May before he was placed on the disabled list. After successful surgery in August, Ross went home to Kentucky a pending free agent with a long road to recovery.
With Ross, nicknamed “The Lawnmower,” back on the farm for the winter, there was uncertainty about his baseball future throughout the rehab process. Having never suffered a significant injury before, Ross’ state of mind shifted as soon as he got hurt.
“Immediately, it was, like, doubt,” Ross said. “You doubt yourself, like, your ability. You start doubting the process of going slow. You start doubting would anyone really want to sign me. You doubt all these thing. It’s all doubt. It’s all fear-based. And eventually I had to overcome that and just ask God to help me through that.”
Ross’ first step toward a return, however, was being able to live normally again. Back injuries can have long-lasting effects, so Ross took it one step at a time, leaning on his faith along the way.
“After this injury, I literally told God, ‘I want to just play baseball again. I just want to be able to pitch again,’ “ Ross said. “I honestly, at first, just wanted to walk normal and I progressed. Ever since that time and asking God to heal my body, personally, for myself to just have a normal life.”
But as time went on, Ross felt better and better, and now has found a new home to get back in the swing of things for the remainder of the preseason.
Sunday, Ross officially changed his Sox, signing a minor league contract with Chicago as a non-roster invitation to major league spring training. Less than a week in, he’s happy with how his body is reacting.
“It’s been great,” Ross said. “I feel comfortable and I just thank God that my body’s progressing the way it did. Every new thing in each day, I’m kind of jumping those hurdles as they come. I’m just trying to stay positive and keep my strength.”
There’s a chance Ross returns to game action soon, according to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who hasn’t yet made a determination where Ross will begin the season.
“We’ll see where Robbie is here in the next week or 10 days in terms of his health,” Hahn said. “And get him hopefully back out there pitching some games here in big league camp.”
But for Ross, the time for thinking about his injuries is over. Now, it’s back to pitching.
“I’m just trying to leave my past injury in the past and move forward,” Ross said. “I think that the best thing is just having that support system and understanding that, hey, injuries happen. But it’s about how you can come out of them.”