Add his name to the list of Boston Red Sox players who didn’t figure to be one of the leaders in their march to a World Series title:
When General Manager Ben Cherington made Ross one of his first free-agent acquisitions, the news was hardly front-page material. No hawking from the newsboys: “Extra, extra, Boston signs backup catcher.” (I know nobody says “extra, extra” anymore but you get the idea).
Who was David Ross?
“I’m more of a keep-my-head-down-and-work-hard kind of guy,” Ross said late Monday night in St. Louis after his RBI double in the seventh inning proved to be the winning hit in the 3-1 victory over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series.
“I’m not the kind of guy that can look ahead. I’ve got to work on the day and bring my best that day.”
Ross, 36, wasn’t signed for his strong bat – he hit .216 during the season – but for his clubhouse presence and praiseworthy way he works with pitchers (think Jason Varitek).
After Jon Lester gave up a home run Monday, Ross was there for him.
“This guy next to me,” said Lester, who joined Ross in the postgame press conference, “did a good job of keeping me calm, keeping me in the game.”
Ross came up through the Dodgers’ system, and has also played for the Pirates, Padres, Reds, Red Sox (for eight games in 2008) and Braves.
Signed to be a backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ross was considered to have the better skills and knowledge but not as strong with the bat.
In May, Ross took a couple of vicious foul tips off his facemask and eventually was diagnosed with a concussion. He spent two weeks on the disabled list. After a rehab, including a game in Portland, he returned May 25.
“I tried to come back fast,” Ross said, “not giving enough credit to really what a concussion is.
“As athletes we feel like we can get through anything … Concussion? Just push through it.”
On June 11, he took another foul tip, which aggravated the symptoms.
Ross not only struggled on the field after his return – 3 for 22 – he was a wreck in everyday life.
“Headaches and dizziness and all the symptoms. Couldn’t ride in a car. Couldn’t be in crowded places … I was questioning whether my career was over.
“My wife was finally like, ‘If you don’t tell the doctors, I’m going to.’ ”
Ross underwent more tests and then was sent to a specialist in Pittsburgh. He began a lengthy rehab that included another stint in Portland. He returned to the majors on Aug. 20.
“He missed two full months and it took him probably 25 at-bats once he was activated to finally get his timing,” Boston Manager John Farrell said. “Once he got it, he’s swung the bat through the month of September and in the postseason better than any time in the year.”
Ross batted .280 in September and is hitting .286 in the postseason. In the ALCS, Ross went 2 for 4 while Saltalamacchia slumped to 3 for 16.
In the World Series, Saltalamacchia is hitless in six at-bats. Ross is 3 for 12. Ross took over as the No. 1 catcher in the Series in Game 4. He will start Game 6 on Wednesday.
“David has given us a spark offensively,” Farrell said. “At the same time David has done a great job from a game-calling perspective.”
That spark included the clutch double in Game 5.
After the game Ross was genuinely enjoying himself on the podium during the postgame press conference, complete with World Series logos in the background.
“I’m just in awe of being in the World Series, really,” he said. “I’m on the podium, talking to you guys, with the whole World Series thing behind me … I’m stoked.”
But keep asking Ross about the double, and he says only a few words before deferring to someone else.
“Speaking of clutch hitting with David Ortiz, what planet is he from?
“That kid (Xander Bogaerts) is only 21 years old and having at-bats like that against a veteran like (Adam) Wainwright.”
“Jonny (Gomes) gives us everything he can with every at bat.
“And Dirt (Stephen Drew) got a really good at-bat to walk.”
But David, what about your game-winning hit?
“Yeah, the game-winning hit, that’s nice,” Ross said, before changing subjects again.
“I think we’re all doing the best we can.”
He won’t talk a lot about his successes but quickly jokes about his shortcomings.
“There’s a reason why I hit ninth,” he said. “I’m not very good at hitting.”
He is good enough. Another unheralded Boston player on the verge of getting a ring.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: