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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Ross eases back into real world

By Gordon Edes
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- It's not quite as dramatic as an astronaut returning to life on Earth -- the laws of gravity, for example, remained in effect throughout the World Series -- but after a season like the Red Sox just had, David Ross said, some re-entry to normalcy was required.

"About five days after I got home,'' Ross said, "I said to my wife [Hyla]: I haven't been around as a dad or husband, have I? I haven't been present. I know I have been here, but mentally ...

Sox Celebration
Catcher David Ross was smothered by Koji Uehara after the final out of Game 6 of the World Series. It was the first Sox championship clinched at Fenway in 95 years.

"She said, 'No, but it's understandable under the circumstances.'''

A backup catcher throughout his career, Ross, at age 36, was behind the plate for four of the six games in the World Series, including the last three. It was into Ross' sturdy arms that closer Koji Uehara leaped after the final out of Game 6, when the Sox celebrated winning a World Series for the first time at Fenway Park in 95 years.

The TV cameras found him regularly throughout October, and why not? Ross loved to talk, and he was funny, insightful and revealing about what it was like to live that experience. It may not have made him a household name in America, but it definitely ratcheted up his recognition factor.

"I don't know if I was ready for that,'' he said Monday night at the Wang Center, where he was mobbed by fans attending the premiere showing of MLB's World Series DVD. "I can't walk into a grocery store without someone wanting to take a picture or say hello, which is great, but my kids are over that. My daughter said the other day, 'Dad, can't we just have a normal dinner?'

"I think I'm ready to get back to normal.''

Ross said that prior to the screening of the Series DVD, he had watched very little of the team's run to the title.

"I haven't watched it as a fan," he said. "I played it. I know the ending. That's kind of nice. The stress level will be a lot less than when I was there.

"I don't know if it ever sinks in. I sometimes text some buddies, a group text, everybody texting each other, hanging and talking, saying, Can you believe what we did? I don't have any words for that.''

Ross will be back in 2014, having signed a two-year, $6.2 million deal last winter. That's a steal, given the prices catchers are commanding on the open market this winter, though multiple concussions limited him to 36 games and 102 plate appearances in 2013, the least he's played in any season in his big league career.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was asked Monday night what assurances the Sox have regarding Ross' health going forward, in light of the concussion history.

"None, really,'' Cherington said. "We know at that position there's always risk. He's aware of that. He's made adjustments, the type of protection he's wearing. He's not that concerned, and we don't have any more concern about him than any catcher.

"Given the change he's made in his equipment, and the time that will pass before he'll see live pitching again in spring training, we're not that concerned about it. It's an issue to take seriously, and if anything is to happen, we would take seriously.''

David Ross
Ross was mobbed by fans at the premiere of MLBs World Series DVD at the Wang Center on Monday. "I can't walk into a grocery store without someone wanting to take a picture or say hello," he said.

Still to be determined is who Ross' catching partner will be next season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a free agent, and onetime heir apparent Ryan Lavarnway has stalled in his bid to claim a starting spot. Ross said he lobbied his former catching partner in Atlanta, free agent Brian McCann, but McCann opted for the five-year, $85 million deal he got from the Yankees, and the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium.

"I think it came down to years," Ross said. "When you add an option for six, it puts you at almost $100 [million]. That's a game-changer.''

Saltalamacchia remains among what Cherington called a "small" list of candidates the Sox are considering. Beyond lobbying McCann, Ross said, he is staying out of the process.

"It's a big part, who my partner is going to be,'' he said. "Obviously Salty and I have a great relationship that's built up. Whoever it is, that's Ben's decision. I would hate to ever influence one way or another, then have something backfire. I say a guy's really good he asks about, and they stink. Then that's a little on me. So I told [Cherington] at the end of the season, I'm glad I just have to worry about the in-season stuff, not the offseason stuff.''

Ross was, along with Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, among the players who originally embraced the beard-as-symbol-of-solidarity, and his salt-and-pepper whiskers became among the most distinguished on the club.

November remains no-shave month, he said. But then the beard is coming off.

"My wife likes a little bit of stubble,'' he said. "We'll go on what she likes. But I think we're a little tired of little kids coming up to me and pulling on my beard. Everyone loves it.''