Ross to see first game action since Opening Day

Padres starter eyes September return from shoulder injury

Ross to see first game action since Opening Day

SAN DIEGO -- Sure, it's just a California League game in late August. But when Tyson Ross takes the ball Thursday for Lake Elsinore, the Padres' Class A Advanced affiliate, he expects to have the same jitters that he had on Opening Day.

That's because Ross will be pitching in game action for the first time since the Padres' season opener on April 4. He's expected to throw three innings or 45 pitches against Rancho Cucamonga.

"I'm excited to pitch, whether it's been five months or five days," Ross said. "Pitching's what I love to do, and I'm excited to get back out there."

It's been a long road back for the 29-year-old right-hander, who hit the disabled list with shoulder inflammation after his Opening Day start. He appeared to be ticketed for a rehab stint in July when he rolled his ankle in his hotel room.

"I'm just excited to get back out there under the lights, in between the white lines, just be back in a ballgame," Ross said. "It's been a long time, so there's going to be some rust I've got to knock off."

The Padres have been using a six-man rotation, but they won't be for long. Tuesday's starter, Christian Friedrich, will likely head to the bullpen in the near future, having reached his innings limit.

But when Ross' rehab stint is over, they'll go back to a six-man group, in an effort to ease the burden on their ace.

Of course, the Padres aren't exactly rushing Ross back. They're out of contention, and the primary goal with Ross is to give him confidence in his shoulder heading into next season.

"It's all going to be predicated on how he feels coming off of every start," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We're not going to push him quickly, obviously, at this point in time. It's September, we're going to make sure he's healthy. My hope is that he's starting for us in early-to-mid September."

Ross posted a 3.26 ERA in 33 starts for the Padres last season. But he was hit hard on Opening Day this year against the Dodgers.

Since then, he's thrown many bullpen sessions to go along with a pair of live batting practices last week. The Padres hitters who took part in those sessions came away raving about Ross' sinker/slider mix.

Now, at long last, the veteran right-hander will get to put his stuff on display against an actual opponent in a game situation.

"Just turning on the lights, playing a real game -- the jitters come with it," Ross said. "That's the thing that I love about pitching and baseball in general."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.