NEW YORK — The numbers were all there. It wasn’t a secret that David Ross has made a career of turning base runners into statistics.
Last year, he gunned down 42.4 percent of the runners that tried to steal. He’s finished at least fourth among National League catchers in caught stealing percentage in six of the past eight seasons.
It wasn’t just in the scouting report. At one point during the Red Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Yankees Thursday night, it was staring everyone in the face in high definition on the scoreboard in center field.
“I take it personally,” he said. “I enjoy when guys try to run.”
Still, Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez tried him anyway.
They both went back to the dugout with their helmets in their hands.
In his first start behind the plate for the Red Sox, Ross got a quick jump on the caught-stealing tally, making it obvious why he was signed.
“Ross has got a tremendous reputation of being able to shut down the running game and he did it again tonight,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
Between Ross (1 for 3) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Sox have a pair of quality catchers at their disposal.
“That’s the reputation that he has,” Sox starter Ryan Dempster said. “I think both of our guys do a good job of that behind the plate. We’re lucky. A lot of teams don’t have that depth and we have two guys who are really good.”
Ross was practically shooting skeet, jumping at the chance to cut down Gardner (82 percent on stolen base attempts for his career) trying to swipe second in the first inning. Then Ross did the same to Nunez (83 percent) in the sixth.
He got help from a couple of pretty picks from shortstop Jose Iglesias around the bag.
“I throw the guys out, it goes on my stats, but I’ve got to give the credit to those guys,” said Ross.
Practically a National League lifer up to this season, Ross spent the first two games quietly observing Saltalamacchia and picking Mike Napoli’s brain, taking notes from players who had spent almost all of their combined 13 seasons in the American League.
After two 3½-hour marathons, the first thing Ross said he noticed was the clock.
“The games are a lot longer,” said Ross. “Geez, Louise. I had enough trouble staying awake over there in the dugout.”
Time flew on Thursday. Yankees starter Andy Pettitte buzzed through the Red Sox lineup, pumping in strike after strike.
Through the first six innings, the Sox scraped together just six hits. When Ross got hold of a 1-and-2 slider with two outs in the seventh (right after Jackie Bradley Jr. roped a run-scoring double to right-center) there was a slight sense they had gotten Pettitte to crack.
The score was 3-1, and Ross thought he got enough of it to tie it up.
“I hit that one ball pretty good,” he said. “That’s all I got. I don’t know if I’m getting old or what. I thought maybe we had him on the ropes right there.”
So did Farrell. But Gardner got a small bit of payback, chasing it down deep.
“I thought the ball that David Ross hit had a chance to get out of the ballpark,” Farrell said. “He gave it a ride and Gardner makes a heck of a catch against the wall. Just when we seem to get a little momentum and finally be able to break through a little on Pettitte, [Gardner] shuts it down with a heck of a play in center.”
How Ross will fit in day to day is still uncertain. He got the heads-up from Farrell two days prior that he would be behind the plate Thursday. Looking at his numbers against Pettitte (4 for 12) and his chemistry with Dempster — while also considering Saltalamacchia, who will catch Friday in Toronto — Farrell said giving Ross the nod made sense.
“The fact is, he’s an important part of our club and we want to get him in our mix,” Farrell said.
Ross wasn’t concerned with a clearly defined role.
“You can ask me that until the end of the year and I’m probably not going to know it,” he said. “I come to work, I put on my uniform and if my name is in the lineup, I’m going to go out there and give 100 percent. If not, I’m going to root Salty on as best I can.”
As for what time, that’s different.
Late in the game, he said he looked up and noticed the game racing along. In all it took 2 hours and 38 minutes.
“I was like, ‘Hmm, under three [hours],’ ” he said. “Then, I looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘Damn.’ ”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.