With important contributions over a productive 11-year major league career, Diamondbacks’ outfielder Cody Ross believes there is still more in the tank.
Taking nothing for granted, Ross is presently in a revolving door with several for, realistically, one outfield position, and that’s left field.
With A. J. Pollock penciled in as the centerfielder and Mark Trumbo now in right field, this pair scooped two of the three spots in the garden. That leaves Ross in a three-man struggle with Ender Inciarte and David Peralta to start in left or platoon.
At the start of the 2013 season, Ross signed a three-year, $26.5 million contract but became injured in significant parts of the first two years of the deal. To date, Ross given the Diamondbacks little value, and questions persist about his future in Sedona Red. Proclaiming himself now injury-free from a hip displacement in August, 2013 and lasting into last season, Ross smiled and simply said, “I’m ready to rock and roll.”
For 2015, Ross will earn $9.5 million and plans call for the 34-year-old to be a vital player. Still, Ross recognizes a sense of urgency and prepared for the season with an extensive upper body and weight program.
“I know numbers play a big part in the game today but the competition in the outfield will come down to who can produce,” he said Wednesday in the Diamondbacks’ Salt River clubhouse. “All I ask is my fair shake of playing time.”
If manager Chip Hale’s comments are to be taken to heart, that will happen.
When asked after the team’s first workout Wednesday about Ross’ role, Hale all but assured the native of Portales, N. M. a roster spot.
“We see a great deal of lefthanders in our division, and Cody will be a huge asset here,” Hale said. “He’s valuable of the bench and player who has been productive over a period of time. He’s a great guy to have on your team.”
That includes Ross’ essential claim-to-fame when he was named the NLCS most-valuable player for the Giants in their series victory over the Phillies in 2010.
With spirits soaring and preparation in place for the major league season marathon ahead, the issue of value becomes important.
For 2014, Ross hit .252 and appeared in 83 games. That’s his second lowest batting average in the last nine years. The only lower batting average season for Ross was .240 for the Giants in the 2011 season.
One concern which should motivate Ross is the fact he is in his contract year. At 34, his career could be winding down or, if he produces to an acceptable level, that may portend attraction in the future.
“I would be lying if I said that was not a motivation,” Ross said of the contract year reality. “But my number one goal is to stay healthy. At my age, I have to train smart and be smart.”
If Ross falters in spring training and others rise, the Arizona organization could be prepared to eat this $9.5 million, 2015 contract.
That’s the observation from club CEO Derrick Hall, who met the media Wednesday during workouts.
“We are not actively seeking to buy-out contracts,” Hall told reporters. “Players tend to play well in their contract years, and we’ll see what happen here.”
Ross, along with pitcher Trevor Cahill, are both in that situation and Hall, along with Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, will keep a close eye.
Save Ross’ economic situation, Cahill will earn $12 million for 2015 and that’s coming off a marginal 3-12 season a year, a 5.61 ERA, 17 starts in 32 appearances and trip to the minors last season.
For 2016, the Diamondbacks could exercise the option on Cahill for $13 million or give him a $300,000 buy-out. For Ross, the option for 2016 is $9.5 million or a $1 million buyout.
THE FIRST DAY
The entire squad reported for the first day of drills Wednesday, and manager Chip Hale told reporters things went “fantastic.”
Noting players moved swiftly from station to station, from facing live pitching to working on defensive drills, Hale said he pleased with the overall effort and team spirit.
“It was good to get started and have everyone ready to go” Hale said. “I liked to the effort they put into defensive drills and this was also an opportunity to get players to work together. I thought the day was a success.”
Hale reported no injures from Day One.
On the nature of competition within the infield and outfield, Hale said competition is healthy, and added. “nothing bad comes out of competition.”
Workouts continue Thursday at Salt River beginning at 9 am. Fans are encouraged to park in the Desert lot and then proceed through a security check-point.