Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross is keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. Here he discusses his fractured foot, the emergence of Will Middlebrooks and why the team is playing better. He also reveals something about Josh Beckett that may surprise most people. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta.)
As crazy as it may sound, I've always enjoy playing in Philadelphia, even though they don’t give me a very nice welcoming. [Editor’s note: Ross was the 2010 NLCS MVP for the Giants when they beat the Phillies to advance to the World Series.] The day started out good. I had a home run off of Cole Hamels and then they brought in Chad Qualls and I took a swing and fouled a ball off my left foot. I knew something was wrong initially. I wear a shin guard from the top of my knee down to close to my ankle. This particular spot where I fouled it off had no protection. The bone I broke is the same bone a lot of players break when they foul a ball of their foot. I tried to fight through it and finished the at-bat. I went in the dugout and knew there was no way I could continue playing. It was frustrating because we were playing well and ended up winning the next two games. Just the thought of having to miss a few weeks was tough. If I had just worn something that covers my whole foot this could have been prevented. I can say, I will never go to the plate again without something covering my whole leg from now on.
The next day, my foot felt better. Generally this isn’t the case when you break a bone. Usually your foot would feel worse, and it didn’t. It kept feeling better and better. I was optimistic that nothing was wrong, but then I went in for the MRI in Boston that revealed a small fracture. This was not the news I wanted to hear. It’s good we had this checked and that I didn’t make things worse by going out there and playing on it.
The plan is I will get it better now and then will have the rest of the season to contribute. For now, that just means rest. The worst thing you can do is go out and pound on it or run. I’m wearing a walking boot to help protect it. After two weeks, we’ll re-evaluate it and see where I’m at. I don’t foresee it being much longer than the two weeks or the 15 days I’m on the DL. I don’t want to put a timetable on it but I’m hopeful it won’t be the six to eight weeks originally thought. I can’t imagine it will be that long.
I’m still going to the field every day to do treatments, work out, stay in shape by riding the bike and on the elliptical. I’m trying to keep my core and abs in shape and really just trying not to gain weight. It would be so easy to put on 10 pounds just sitting around. I’m trying not to do that by working out. Then I watch the game. I’ll go in the dugout and cheer my teammates on.
Something I like to watch for in a game is how the defense sets up against certain players. Like you’ll see with Big Papi or Adrian Gonzalez, there will be a shift where a guy will shift over from his normal position. Some guys will move over the other way when a right-handed pull hitter is up. I like seeing where certain players and certain teams set up on guys as far as defense. Another thing I like to look for is when a batter is up, where the catcher sets up. If they’re trying to pitch a guy inside or outside. Those two things, keep an eye on the defense and where the catcher is setting up. In the big leagues, these guys are so good that they’re not just trying to throw the pitch over the plate to throw a strike, they’re locating it on the corners and throwing it inside and outside. That’s what separates them from the average person. One other thing, if you’re at the game make sure you keep your eye on the ball so you don’t get hit in the face or something when balls go into the stands.
Injuries are part of the game
We have had a lot of outfielders on the DL this season. How do I explain it without saying it’s just baseball. It’s one of those things you can’t really explain because there is nothing we’re doing wrong. It’s just part of the game. We’ve had some guys that have come up and done a great job of filling in. At the beginning of the season, you just know, it’s not going to be twenty-five guys that help try to win a division or a championship. You are going to use the 40-man roster and even more. We’ve had some tough injuries. Every team goes through it. It just seems we’ve gotten a little more than most. But we never want to use injuries as an excuse, we still go out there and compete and play well and try to get everyone back on the field soon.
Adrian Gonzalez has been playing right field for us to help with all the injured outfielders. He has asked me for advice. The other day he asked me if I see him doing anything to let him know. He’s a really good athlete. He’s been around the game long enough. He knows how to play almost every position. He’s a very smart guy when it comes to the game. He’s done a great job when they’ve put him out there.
We’ve been playing good. Our record has been hanging around the .500 mark. It’s OK, but we’re a lot better team than what our record shows. It’s just a matter of putting it together and getting healthy. A good winning streak will put us right back in the thick of it. Salty [Jarrod Saltalamacchia] had our first walk-off homer of the season on Saturday. The way it all played out -- getting a pinch-hit walk-off home run -- is very helpful for a team. You’re down and for him to come out and do that can give you a ton of confidence. We kept it rolling. Unfortunately on Sunday we lost the game in the ninth inning, but everyone’s spirits were up throughout the game. You could tell on the other side that Saturday’s loss stunned the Rays. That one hurt them and so they came out on Sunday a little flat. Even though Clay [Buchholz] didn’t get the win, he pitched really well.
Those types of wins like we had on Saturday can have layering effects. The good teams roll with it just like when you have a tough loss like we did on Sunday, you try to put it out of your mind and not think about it. You move on to the next day.
Middlebrooks 'a huge contributor'
I mentioned how we’ve had a lot of guys called up to help us. One of them is Will Middlebrooks, who came up when Youk [Kevin Youkilis] got hurt. He’s been fantastic since day one that he got here. It’s been really fun to watch. That’s what it’s really all about: having fun. A lot of times guys come up -- I was guilty of this when I was young -- you come up and put too much pressure on yourself. You feel like you have to get a hit every single at-bat. You end up playing yourself into a hole. He didn’t do that. He came up and stayed the same. He had been swinging the bat well in Triple-A. He came up and continued his dominance at the plate. He kept going up and have one quality at-bat after another. He’s been a huge contributor to this team. You have Youk go down and without having a player like Middlebrooks come up and doing what he’s done, I don’t know where we’d be as a team.
Mike Aviles is the one who has taken Middlebrooks under his wing. Reminds me of when I was coming up with the Tigers how Craig Monroe and Dmitri Young took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. They showed me how to play the game and what to do and not do. They took me to dinners and made me feel like a big-leaguer. That’s really a part of baseball is having veteran guys show the younger guys the ropes to make them feel like they belong. Mike has done a really good job doing that with Will.
Talking about Middlebrooks makes me think about when I made my own Major League debut. Everything just seemed to be going at such a fast pace. I got the call early in the morning of July 4, 2003. The Fourth of July is probably one of the biggest days in baseball, you know, fireworks and sold-out crowds. No matter if you are the best team or the worst team, you’re sold out because people want to see fireworks. People like to enjoy America’s pastime of baseball on Independence Day. I flew into Kansas City and got there an hour before game. I threw on my Tigers jersey and ran out to the field. I remember Kirk Gibson took me out to the outfield and tried to show me the different caroms off the wall. Everything seemed to be moving at a thousand miles an hour. I took BP really fast and went in and grabbed a quick bite to eat then ran out there and played. My third at-bat I got hit right in the square of my back. It hit a nerve and I couldn’t walk. I could barely walk to first base. I ended up having to come out of the game. A lot of guys were giving me grief about it because I was supposed to be this tough kid that played hard. Here I was in my Major League debut having to come out of the game.
On Beckett's many talents
What else has been going on? Well, we just finished the first go-round of Interleague play. In my opinion, the pitcher who can hit the best would have to be Josh Beckett, because he hit a ball off the wall in Philly that was very close to being a home run. I wouldn’t say that he has the best swing, but it doesn’t matter what kind of swing he has because it’s all about production. So I give the prize to Beckett so far. Something you may be surprised to know about Beckett is that this guy is hilarious. I mean, the one-liners that he has are second to none. You always have that one guy on a team that no matter what comes out of his mouth is funny and that’s Josh. I think people would be surprised to hear that because he comes across so serious. He’s very intense, but you get him in the clubhouse and the one-liners he comes up with are classic.
Speaking of our pitchers, there’s the old saying that pitching and defense wins championships. Any time you can have your starters working deep in the game like our guys have been pitching lately, gives us a chance. We’re a team that feels that we are going to be able to push across a few runs and when our pitchers our good, we’re scoring runs and our bullpen is doing their job then everything is clicking. It also makes for a fun team to be on.
We’re not the only team in town having fun. The Celtics moved on to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. My prediction is Celtics in six. I mean, I like both teams. Having played for the Marlins, I do own a Heat jersey. But I live in Boston now and I support the Celtics.
One final thought
Finally, with Monday being Memorial Day, I wanted to say to all the men and women serving in the military thank you for your courage and for fighting for our rights. We appreciate your dedication to our country. We think about you, not just today, but on a daily basis.