Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Ross a big hit with Sox
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Overachieving Cody Ross, who might be an inch taller than Dustin Pedroia, puts on his own laser shows during batting practice.
Common reaction from fans: “That's Cody Ross?”
Indeed. The former San Francisco outfielder is making a big impression with his quick hands and compact swing. He's sure to be a fan favorite in the outfield corners at Fenway Park, whether replacing J.D. Drew or seeing time in left field if Carl Crawford (wrist) takes a while to return.
Not only does Ross have a swing made for an instructional video, he's a gamer, a good clubhouse guy and a World Series champion. He comes at a price tag of $3 million this season, which is going to feel like a steal after Ross hammers 20 homers.
The 31-year-old is coming off a down year (.240, 14 homers) with the Giants, a season attributed to some “bad habits” and the pitcher-friendly ballpark in San Francisco. But take a look at the fly ball-producing swing of Ross, and it's easy to see how the Green Monster will be his friend.
“I got into some pretty bad habits the last couple years, not driving the ball, not getting that backspin. I was trying to stay inside the ball too much. I worked out quite a bit this off-season. I can see a little difference,” Ross said.
Ross, who signed a one-year deal, didn't have a job until general manager Ben Cherington of Meriden, N.H., offered him a deal in late January. At the very least, Ross will provide depth at all three outfield spots.
“(Cherington) understands the game. He understands that it takes baseball players to win. It's great to have talent, and it's great to have guys with a lot of tools, but if you're not a baseball player, that can only get you so far,” said Ross, who was MVP of the 2010 National League Championship Series.
“You look at guys like (Kevin) Youkilis and Pedroia. Those guys aren't so gifted as far as tools go, but they play the game the right way. The more guys you get like that, the better chance you have … Ben has done a great job assembling a team with a mix of great talent and baseball players.”
Cherington has been handcuffed, financially, since the vault-busting contracts given to John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. While searching the free-agent market, he kept coming back to Ross, whosen market value dropped following the '11 season.
“He's always hit left-handed pitching really well, and he has power,” Cherington said. “He hits a lot of ball in the air to left field, and, I think, for the most part, he's played in ballparks that haven't matched up with his style of hitting.”
No story on Cody Ross would be complete without asking him about Londonderry (N.H.) native Brian Wilson of the Giants.
“I've got a ton of Brian Wilson stories and most of them I can't say on camera,” Ross said. “You see him on commercials and TV, but he's like that constantly. He's got that personality. He's super smart. One of the biggest things I want people to know about him is that he's one of the biggest competitors I've ever met. He wants to have a 0.00 ERA at the end of the year.”
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Minnesota Twins pitcher Terry Doyle finished his Wednesday workout at the team's spring-training complex and received some great news from pitching coach Rick Anderson: “You're starting against the Red Sox.”
Doyle, a Salem (N.H.) native, will be the first visiting big leaguer to take the mound at JetBlue Park. Boston's official opener of the Grapefruit League will be televised Sunday on NESN at 1:30 p.m.
Josh Beckett is scheduled to start against the Twins, followed by Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon. Doyle, coming off an excellent minor-league season with the White Sox, was claimed in the Rule 5 Draft by the Twins during the off-season. The Boston College graduate hopes to position himself for a spot on Minnesota's 25-man roster, whether joining the rotation or going to the bullpen.
“I'm excited that my friends back home will be able to watch me pitch,” Doyle said. “Hopefully it's the first of many times I get to pitch against the Red Sox, so I'm going to try to stay relaxed and do the best I can to get outs.”
The big righty went 7-5 (3.24 ERA) and threw a pair of complete games for Double-A Birmingham last season. Doyle, 26, made a big impression on the Twins during the Arizona Fall League. They scooped him up during baseball's winter meetings in the Rule 5 Draft.
Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at graymatter11.com.
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