Thoughts of playing at Fenway Park lingered in the back of Cody Ross’s mind ever since he parted ways with the Red Sox.
After dealing with sour negotiations in the offseason, Ross wasn’t necessarily happy with the circumstances that led to him leaving Boston and signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but when he saw the schedule he figured he could pencil in some payback.
“Obviously, I’ve had this game circled on my calendar for a while,” Ross said. “I knew we were coming back here later part of the year and I was excited to get back and see a lot of familiar faces and a lot of friends, but at the same time come back and beat them. There’s some feelings there.”
Ross welcomed himself back by shooting fly balls to the gaps and over the Monster, running laps on the base paths, going 4 for 5 with two doubles, three RBIs, and the home run that decided the Diamondbacks’ 7-6 win over the Red Sox and helped him exact some revenge on the team that let him get away.
“Obviously it feels good to have success against your old team or any team that let you go,” Ross said.
He’s played the role before. Going back to Florida after the Marlins let the Giants claim him off waivers, then going back to San Francisco when the Giants let him walk in free agency.
Mentally, he looked at them like playoff games.
“I wanted to beat the crap out of them,” he said.
He punished the Red Sox Friday, having his way in the same ballpark where he hit 13 home runs a year ago.
“He’s got a swing that fits this ballpark as you saw a year ago with the home runs he hit here,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
He was coming off a 22-home run season for Boston, and both he and the Sox front office had expressed interest, he said. But when the time came to settle, 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.
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 Arizona, Ross said he was disappointed by the process that forced him to leave Boston, but comfortable in his new surroundings.
Still, when he looks at the Red Sox team that is 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 in the team’s approach 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.”
Cherington declined comment before the game.
Ross is batting .280 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs for the Diamondbacks, who sit 3½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West. 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.