FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Cody Ross story captured the imagination of a national audience in the 2010 postseason.
He had been with Florida since 2006, and had had a notable career there, but the Marlins placed him on waivers in August, and the Giants, trying to keep him away from the surging Padres, claimed him.
Ross wound up being the hero of the National League Championship Series with dramatic homers against the Phillies, then helped the Giants beat the Rangers for a World Series championship.
Ross played the final 33 games of the 2010 regular season with the Giants, hitting .288 with three homers. In the Division Series against the Braves, Ross played right field and knocked in the winning run in two of the three victories, with a homer and the decisive single in the clinching Game 4.
Against the Phillies in the NLCS, Ross belted two homers off Roy Halladay in Game 1 and another off Roy Oswalt in Game 2. He also homered against Colby Lewis of the Rangers in Game 3 of the World Series.
But in 2011, Ross had a miserable season, batting only .240 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs.
Ross, who signed with the Red Sox as a free agent in the offseason and arrived in camp yesterday, said that he might have suffered from a World Series letdown.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that last year,’’ he said, “but after the first week went by, you realize you’re not going to do that every time you come to the plate.
“That quickly came out of my head and then I tried to figure out what I did in the past to get to that point.
“I do feel like I contribute something on a daily basis, and I do feel if we get to the playoffs, it’s a different feeling. You have to have a different mind-set. Some guys perform and some guys don’t. I feel I can bring that.’’
He described his 2010 postseason success as basically an adrenaline rush.
“I just had a different mind-set in the playoffs,’’ he said. “You go through the daily routine, playing baseball every day for 162 games, and it’s a grind. It’s tough, but once you get to the playoffs, you say, ‘Wow, this is what we played every day for. This is why we play the game.’
“You sort of have that mentality. You either do it or you don’t. Fortunately for me, I did it.
“It’s something a lot of guys in here have - a lot of playoff experience. They know what it takes to get there. That helps on teams. You realize that you need to win this game because it matters in Game 161 when you’re down the stretch.’’
So after the down season, he became a free agent, and the Giants, who made deals with the Royals for Melky Cabrera and the Mets for Angel Pagan, believed his asking price was far too high.
Ross was believed to be asking for a three-year, $18 million contract. The Giants wouldn’t meet that demand. Ross settled on a one-year, $3 million deal with the Red Sox.
“I’m really excited right now to be a part of an amazing organization, to know what these guys are all about,’’ said the 30-year-old Ross, who will wear No. 7 and likely emerge as Boston’s right fielder.
Ross is playing in the American League for the first time since 2003, when he broke in with the Tigers.
“It’s going to be a change, obviously,’’ Ross said. “I’ll have to learn a few things about pitching, different stuff here and there.’’
Why the Red Sox?
“I felt it was a great fit,’’ said Ross. “I had quite a few options, but at the end of the day, this was the best situation for me, and I felt this team was on the right track trying to get on that next level and winning championships.
“I talked to a few guys before about it, and everyone was down about last year but looking forward to this year and looking to repeat what they’ve done in the past.’’
While Fenway’s right field is challenging, said Ross, he feels right field at AT&T Park in San Francisco is probably the most difficult in baseball.
“It’s just something you have to get used to,’’ he said. “I’ll go out every day early trying to figure out the dimensions and wall and things like that. I’m sure it’s something I’ll get used to.’’
By no means does he feel he has a job sewn up. There is Ryan Sweeney to contend with, for sure. Of course, Carl Crawford may not be ready to start the season, so that likely would open spots for both Sweeney and Ross.
“I feel like I need to earn a job every year,’’ said Ross. “It’s a good kind of pressure to put on yourself.’’
While the Red Sox were enduring their collapse last season, the Giants were having their own struggles.
“To be quite honest, I really didn’t realize it all that much because we were going through so much struggles ourselves,’’ he said. “To have a team win the World Series and then not make the playoffs is terrible. I was trying to focus on that.
“The Boston slide was similar to the Braves down the stretch. It definitely didn’t affect my decision. I knew everybody in here wants to turn it around; if anything, it helps.’’
The Sox felt Ross was the dirt-dog type who would fit in with tough players such as Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. They felt they needed that kind of attitude in the field after the J.D. Drew days.
The other thing Ross is looking forward to is the left field wall.
“I think it’s suited for any righthanded swing,’’ he said. “I do hit a lot of fly balls to left field. It can help.
“If you sit there conscious about hitting it over the wall every time, you get screwed up, and chances are it’s not going to happen. I’m going to stay with my approach.’’