Ross excited to be playing for D-backs
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before there was Marco Scutaro, there was Cody Ross.
The pair of heretofore utility players have all this in common: they both came to the Giants late in what turned out to be World Series-winning seasons. Ross was Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series in 2010 and Scutaro earned that hardware in the NLCS this past postseason.
Both now have the security of long-term contracts -- Ross with the D-backs and Scutaro with the Giants. While Scutaro was the man this past fall, Ross watched from afar as the Giants came back to sweep the Tigers in the World Series, winning for the second time in three years.
Ross said on Sunday that he understood the feeling of what it was like to be part of that scene.
"I could put myself in their shoes and sort of feel that intensity and that pressure," Ross said before the D-backs played the Rockies in the second Cactus League game of the spring for both teams at Salt River Fields. "But there's nothing like actually being there and experiencing it. I'm hungry for it again, that's for sure."
If it's going to happen for him again, it will happen in Arizona.
Ross, 32, has the security of a three-year, $26 million contract after bouncing from the Marlins to the Giants to the Red Sox and now the D-backs in the space of two-plus seasons. Scutaro re-signed with the Giants for the same term, but $20 million.
Ross started in right field on Sunday, but he's not sure where he's going to play regularly in Arizona's revamped outfield now that incumbent center fielder Chris Young and right fielder Justin Upton have been traded. Sunday's outfield of Jason Kubel in left, Adam Eaton in center and Ross in right looks like it might be the standard heading into the season, barring injury and performance.
"There hasn't been a whole lot of talk about where I'm going to play," Ross said. "I made it very clear to them when I was talking about signing that I was comfortable playing anywhere they needed me, just as long as I played a lot. I'm not going to run into [manager Kirk Gibson's] office saying, 'Give me one place to play so I'll be comfortable.' It doesn't bother me. Wherever they think will be the best place for me on that day to help the team win is where I'll play."
But he still doesn't know. "No," Ross said.
Ross, though, is a key to the D-backs long-term and short-term plans. His signing three days before Christmas gave D-backs general manager Kevin Towers the flexibility to trade Upton to the Braves in a deal for third baseman Martin Prado almost precisely a month later.
As Towers and Ken Kendrick, the D-backs' managing partner, scoured the list of remaining free agents just before the holidays, they both came to agreement that Ross should be a focal point. Ross was about to have dinner in Texas with Rangers executives when his agent texted him that the D-backs were interested. Ross couldn't really concentrate during that meeting. He and his family live in Scottsdale, and the message from Towers via his agent was almost too good to be true.
"It was crazy timing," Ross said. "We hadn't heard anything from the Diamondbacks. Then I'm out to dinner and Texas was wanting to move pretty quick. I came back home and had lunch with [the D-backs] the next day, and basically agreed by the end of the night."
Certainly, timing is usually everything. Ross was picked up by the Giants from the Marlins via waivers on Aug. 22, 2010. The Giants were then six games behind the Padres in the NL West, and wound up clinching the division title on the final day of the regular season.
Ross was a huge part of San Francisco's revamp late that season, much like Scutaro had the same impact last year after he was obtained from the Rockies in a July 27 trade. During the 2010 postseason, which ended with the Giants defeating the Rangers to win their first World Series since 1954, Ross hit .294 with five homers and 10 RBIs. Three of those homers and half of those RBIs came in a six-game NLCS elimination of the Phillies.
Ross was named MVP of that series, and ultimately re-upped with the Giants for one year and $6.3 million. But the D-backs won the 2011 division title and an injury-plagued Ross had a subpar season. In 2012, he signed on with the Red Sox menagerie for $3 million with the hope of making it back to the postseason. It didn't happen. Boston finished dead last in the American League East.
"When I signed with the Red Sox, I thought we had a pretty good chance," he said. "When you looked at the lineup, we were stacked. It was a good group of guys and our pitching staff was full of All-Stars. But we couldn't stay healthy, and we couldn't get it together. It was a bad year, and it happens."
Now Ross is hoping to be redeemed, back home and back in the NL West. He's amazed that the Giants, with only catcher Buster Posey remaining from the 2010 starting lineup, came back to win it all again this past year.
"I certainly didn't peg them," he said. "I still have a lot of friends over there, and I told them that."
Few are "pegging" these D-backs, either. They are now in their formative stage, Ross knows. With different starters at third base, shortstop, center field and right field, the season has a chance to break either way.
"This is a place I can hang my hat and call home," Ross said. "Hopefully I can end my career here. This organization is going in the right direction. They're bringing in some really good players, and have a great young pitching staff with a great bullpen.
"So, I'm really excited to get going here. That's for sure."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.