DUNEDIN, Fla. - Cody Ross heard about the clubhouse issues that contributed to the collapse of the Red Sox last season. But he didn’t believe the notion that the team was somehow lacking in character.
Ross has played for five teams in his eight major league seasons and became acquainted with many of the Red Sox players, directly or indirectly. He saw a team in need of some changes, but not a major restructuring.
“I knew it wasn’t a bad clubhouse because I knew a lot of the guys on the team,’’ Ross said Wednesday after the Sox played to a 3-3 tie with the Blue Jays. “In my opinion, I felt it was a good clubhouse. I didn’t know everything that happened, but I knew enough. When they called me, I didn’t shy away.’’
Ross signed with the Sox in late January, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3 million. When general manager Ben Cherington contacted Ross, one of his selling points was the idea that the 31-year-old outfielder had the kind of personality Cherington valued.
One of Cherington’s goals when he replaced Theo Epstein was to take chemistry into account when building the team - not at the expense of talent, but perhaps as a larger part of the equation than it was in the past.
That’s what helped lead to the Sox signing Ross and infielder Nick Punto and pursuing Andrew Bailey in a trade.
“Absolutely, Ben mentioned that aspect of it, he did right away,’’ Ross said. “He told me I would be a good fit on this team and that he wanted guys who really cared about winning and cared about their teammates. He was right, too. I’ve come in here and felt right at home with this bunch of guys.
“That helps. In general, when you get good guys who come in, that adds a certain dynamic to the team. A selfish player can actually ruin a team. I’m glad they see me as somebody who can help in that regard.’’
Ross is a righthanded hitter with power; that is what attracted the Sox the most. He is a career .282 hitter against lefthanders with a .912 OPS; that should play well in a division featuring CC Sabathia, David Price, and Ricky Romero. Ross also brings the versatility of being able to play all three outfield positions.
In 2010, after joining the San Francisco Giants in August, he hit five home runs and drove in 15 runs in 10 postseason games. Ross stayed with the Giants after helping them win the World Series but hit only .240 last season with a .730 OPS. That allowed the Red Sox to get him at a discount somewhat late in the process.
“I really like what I’ve seen so far,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said. “That loft power, the fact that he’s played in that postseason stuff. His age. Feeling he could make the transition to our environment.’’
Valentine said the personality of a player is probably “last on the checklist’’ when making up a roster. But it’s worthy of consideration, especially in a market like Boston.
“It’s not an end-all, but there’s some merit to it,’’ he said. “[Cherington] believes that’s an important part, regardless of what year he’s going to be the general manager. He scouts the person as well as the player.’’
Valentine has noticed how easily Ross has fit in.
“It seems like it,’’ he said. “His social skills are very mature, easy to adapt.’’
Ross said that comes from being traded twice, sold once, and being claimed off waivers another time. He started his career with the Tigers, then went to the Dodgers, Reds, Marlins, and Giants.
“These transitions are easy for me,’’ said Ross. “This is my sixth team. It’s a shock the first time it happens, but then you get used to it. I can come in here and be me.
“It feels like it did when I joined the Giants in 2010. There were a lot of characters on that team, a lot of personality. But it all came together.’’
Ross also should prove helpful to Valentine because of the breadth of his experience.
“I’ve done it all,’’ he said. “I came up as basically a bench player. I worked my way into being a platoon player and worked my way into a starting role.
“I haven’t been a starter my whole career. I’m comfortable in a lot of different roles. However Bobby wants to use me, that’s great. I came here to win.’’
After getting a ring with the Giants, playing for a contender was important.
“There’s nothing like it,’’ said Ross. “I wouldn’t know how to go to the field and not feel that way anymore. The idea of going to the field every day and thinking, ‘Well, we’re not going anywhere. I hope I get a few knocks,’ I hate that.
“I want to go to the field and think, ‘We have to win today.’ That’s the only way to play this game.
“With the Marlins, if we won, we won; if we lost, we lost. Nobody cared. I never want to feel that way again. In Boston, every game will be huge.’’