Midway through last season, there were enough signs to lead Cody Ross to believe that he would be back with Boston in 2013.
The trade deadline had passed and the Red Sox were drowning in their own drama, with injuries pulling them down even further.
“Unless we went on a tremendous run, and I didn’t get traded, I figured that there would be a good chance of coming back,” Ross said.
He was coming off a 22-home run season in Boston, and both he and the Sox front office had expressed interest, he said. But when the time came to settle on an agreement, there was a disconnect.
Ross was looking for more than the one-year, $3 million deal he had played on in 2012. When it never materialized, he was forced to consider his options as a free agent.
But seeing the Sox sign outfielder Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million contract left a sour taste in Ross’s mouth.
Looking back as he returned to Fenway Park on Friday afternoon for the first time since signing a three-year, $26 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ross said he was disappointed by the process that forced him to leave Boston after just one season, but comfortable in his new surroundings.
Still, when he looks at the Red Sox team that began the night leading the AL East, he couldn’t help but have mixed feelings.
“I wouldn’t say betrayed, just maybe jaded a little bit,” Ross said. “When you hear one thing from the top that they’re going to not sign guys to long-term deals then turn around a week later and do it. I mean — I’m a person too, I’m not just a baseball player. I have emotions and feelings. Even though most people might not think we do, we do. But I’ve put it behind me, went on, and tried to enjoy the free agent process even though it’s a doozy. But things couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Because his relationship with Sox general manager Ben Cherington was so close, Ross said, it was jarring to see a change once negotiations started.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” Ross said. “Me and Ben had a great relationship. Very open. I felt like I could go and talk to him about anything. He would come to me and talk to me about certain stuff that general managers don’t necessarily approach players about sometimes.
“We had a great relationship, just, I don’t know. I don’t know if the fact that I expressed to them first that I wanted to come back may have hurt me a little bit. Showing my hand, if you will. But that’s neither here nor there. Things happen for a reason. I’m a firm believer that they signed some great players. Great character guys. And I got to be where I want to be, so it all works out.”
Approached before the game, Cherington declined comment.
Ross recorded hits in his first four at-bats, including a home run and two doubles, knocking in three runs and scoring twice.
“Any time you play against one of your old teams you want to perform well and do well,” Ross said.
Ross entered hitting .271 with six home runs and 32 RBIs for the Diamondbacks, who sat 4 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West heading into Friday night’s game. He said he’s kept an eye on the Sox, who’ve turned things around after a disastrous 2012 season, a year that Ross described as one of the worst in his career.
“Any time you have a losing season like that, it’s not fun,” Ross said. “We wanted to win. Going into the 2012 season on paper, we looked like we were pretty good. That’s why you play 162 because you never know what’s going to happen. We were bit by the injury bug. A lot of drama surrounding the whole team. But it was definitely a tough time, but something that we all learned from — me, them — and hopefully it made us better people and players.’’
Over the offseason, Ross said he was flooded with questions about what it was like to play for former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, whose firing in the offseason was the first in a wave of changes.
Looking at the Sox’ chemistry — as well as the results — Ross said the changes have obviously paid off.
“Just being a part of that and how it went down and seeing and hearing about how it is now, it’s I would assume night and day,” he said. “So good for them. Glad that they got their clubhouse back intact and they’re doing good.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.