BOSTON — A big selling point for David Ross to sign with the Red Sox this past offseason was the chance to work with talented pitchers such as Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Ross helped Sox pitchers post a 3.79 ERA this year after a dreadful 4.70 last year. They also recorded a franchise-record 1,294 strikeouts and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
“This is a blast for me,” said Ross, who was on the disabled list for two months due to a concussion. “This is a great time to be a catcher for the Red Sox because it’s fun to catch these guys. It’s fun to compete with them. ... It’s just a good group that just prepares well and has a lot of fun.”
Ross and the Red Sox play Game 3 of their American League Division Series today in Tampa Bay at 6:07 p.m. Boston is ahead 2-0 in the best-of-five series and will go for the sweep with Buchholz on the mound opposite Tampa righty Alex Cobb.
Ross started Game 2. He doubled and scored a run.
Similar to Jonny Gomes, Ross is only a backup and didn’t have a great year offensively (.216 batting average and .298 on-base percentage in just 116 plate appearances), but he garners as much respect as anyone in Boston’s clubhouse.
“David brings a scouting report that’s second to none with guys he’s caught and the success he’s had,” Gomes said.
Red Sox hurlers had a stellar 3.12 ERA in the 36 games he caught and he has a fine 41 percent caught-stealing rate. He has helped Jarrod Saltalamacchia improve his defense, his calling of a game, his preparation and his throwing.
Like Gomes, Ross is constantly prepared.
Dustin Pedroia said, “Their approach to the game — whether they are in the lineup or not — they are going to try to find a way to help us win. Whether it’s saying something to a starter, getting in the game or whatever their role is that day.”
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth — who was teammates with Ross in Triple-A and then from 2009-11 with the Atlanta Braves — said Ross spent time with Braves pitchers on the bench talking about different hitters.
“He’s got a big personality,” McLouth explained. “He talks a lot, which I’m not saying in a bad way at all. Very positive. He knows baseball and he’s just a fun, fun person to be around. ... He knows what he’s talking about.
“He’s a big help to any team he’s on. That extends (beyond) the field. He’s a good catcher, a really good catcher, but the other things he brings are very important, too.”
Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo called Ross and Gomes “born leaders” but said they lead in different ways.
“They have great experience, great knowledge and the ability to share information,” Lovullo said. “People just want to be around them. You’ll find yourself in the clubhouse kind of gravitating to them. On top of that, they are really good baseball players who know how to contribute in a special way. I know both would like to be everyday full-time starters. That doesn’t affect their leadership qualities.
“They’re able to contribute in our scouting report meetings. They’re not afraid to speak up. We’ve asked them to have an expanded role of going out and talking to younger players and helping them through tough moments or if they see a situation, they can jump right on it and instruct and teach.
“We pay attention to them because they’ve earned that respect. They know how to do things the right way.”
Will there be life in baseball for these two after their playing careers are finished?
“David Ross sees the game a little bit differently than Jonny does,” Lovullo said. “But I think that they’d both be exceptional staff members if that’s the road they want to choose.”
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB