It's not uncommon for pitchers to reach high Single-A and Double-A baseball only to struggle with their confidence and control. Greg Ross, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves' Double-A Mississippi, hasn't faced those issues, and it just might be because he is uncommonly good.
His coaches talk as if the Towson resident and Loch Raven High School graduate is ready for the major leagues.
After getting promoted from Single-A Lynchburg in Virginia in late June, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ross has been impressive in Mississippi, going 3-1 with a 0.98 earned run average and allowing 15 hits in 27 innings while posting a 0.831 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).
"I wouldn't be surprised if see him in Triple-A this year," said Lynchburg pitching coach Derrick Lewis, who has worked with Ross the last two seasons. "He has a feel for the moment. When he needs to get a strikeout, he can get one. When he needs a double play, he can get one. He knows what certain game situations call for. A lot of guys are still trying to figure that out."
Ross, 24, is doing something pitching coaches stress: Throwing strikes. And he has been doing it effectively and effeciently with his four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup.
His fastball is in the 88-to-90-mph ranget.
"He throws four pitches over the plate," Mississippi pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn said. "His two best pitches are his cutter and fastball. If you make quality pitches, then that makes them major meague pitches. He is calm, in control out there and seems unfazed. He deals with adverse situations well."
Atlanta drafted Ross in the 18th round in the 2011 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft out of Frostburg State University .
He had pitched for two years at the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex before attending Frostburg.
"I have always had the underdog mentality," Ross said. "I didn't get a big signing bonus. It's kept me motivated and made me work even harder. I fly under the radar and don't get much exposure. People may say, 'Where did this guy come from?' "
Ross' reputation as a prospect keeps growing. He earned a berth on the Carolina League All-Star team last month with Lynchburg and went 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA before getting promoted.
"Getting named to that All-Star team was really exciting," Ross said. "I have only done that a handful of times in my baseball career. The start to this season was one of the best I've had in my professional career. I just have to keep pitching well and good things will happen."
The confidence the Braves have in Ross seems to keep growing.
"He's been more consistent all the way around this year," Lewis said. "He was better in the run game and has better command of his curveball. Guys get to the big leagues in different ways. Some guys are blessed with great arms, but if he keeps getting them out as he goes, there's only one place for you to go."
Ross said he has been thinking more about the big leagues since being promoted to Double-A.
"I am one step closer to my dream," he said. "A lot of guys for the Braves have gone right from Double-A to the big leagues. I have to get settled in here, I feel like I am right there. I have to stay focused mentally and tune up my game a little bit more."
Ross said there are other signs that he's moving up.
"Before, it was Days Inn or Best Western," he said of going on the road while playing for Lynchburg. "I think the first time on the road in Birmingham in Double-A, I was at the Sheraton that was 16 floors. The room had a huge kitchen. I was a little bit thrown off by that.
"I haven't carried my bags. The bus drivers and clubhouse managers take our bags."
Loch Raven coach John Railey has followed Ross' path closely and isn't surprised he is where he is.
"He set his sights back in high school that he wanted to be a pro ball player," Railey said. "He had the size, determination and skill."