Padres hand Opening Day nod to Ross

Padres hand Opening Day nod to Ross

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tyson Ross will make the first Opening Day start of his career on April 4 when the Padres face the Dodgers at Petco Park.

"It completely caught me off-guard. It's a true honor to be named the Opening Day starter," Ross said. "I'm looking forward to not just taking the mound that first day, but getting the ball rolling for the whole team."

First-year manager Andy Green didn't waste any time naming the order of the first three starters in the team's rotation Friday, the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers.

James Shields, who started Opening Day last season against the Dodgers, will be the No. 2 starter with Andrew Cashner going No. 3. The Nos. 4 and 5 starters will be determined later, as the team has six weeks in Arizona to sort through that.

Green said the Opening Day nod was well-deserved for Ross, who had a 3.26 ERA in a career-high 33 starts last season.

"I feel like he's earned that right at this point in time and that it's the next step in his growth process," Green said. "I feel very strongly about it.

"Tyson is ready and eager to take the ball on Day 1. We're excited to have him as our ace."

Green names Opening Day starter

Green let longtime pitching coach Darren Balsley have the honor of telling Ross he would start Opening Day. Ross has credited Balsley for helping him to become the pitcher he is after struggles early in his career with the A's.

"It's been great. I'm really appreciative for everything Darren has done for me," Ross said. "He's taken me from a tough part in my career and helped me blossom. I owe the world to him. We've been through a lot together."

Ross to start on Opening Day

The announcement of the Opening Day starter came early this year. Last year, it wasn't announced until March 28, when then-manager Bud Black picked Shields.

Green was asked how Shields took the news that Ross would start Opening Day instead of him.

"Like a pro. He was excited for Tyson," Green said. "He doesn't need the Opening Day start. He's done it well. He was the consummate teammate in that moment."

Ross has been dominant at times since the Padres and then-general manager Josh Byrnes landed him from the A's in November 2012. Since 2013, he has a 3.07 ERA in 99 games, including 80 starts.

A year ago, Ross posted his highest strikeout percentage (25.8) while posting the highest WAR (4.4) of anyone on the team.

Ross' slider has become his best pitch and one he leans on a lot. It not only has helped him miss a lot of bats (24 percent swinging-strike rate), but it's helped to induce a lot of weak contact (61 percent ground-ball rate).

In terms of how Green and the staff figured out the next two starters after Ross, a lot of that boiled down to being tactical.

"I think we have some added benefit of separating our power arms. We like the way it sets up," Green said. "We've got three guys at the top of the rotation we feel very good about."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.