Ever since Jason Varitek started losing playing time to offense-heavy catchers, the pitching staff’s effectiveness has experienced a downward spiral. Sure, Varitek wasn’t much of a hitter in the later years of his career, but he could call a hell of a ballgame. The Red Sox acknowledged that this winter when they went out and signed David Ross to a 2 year/$6 million deal. Even through just a month, Ross has already proven that he is close enough to Varitek’s reincarnation to deserve hefty praise from the Red Sox fanbase.
David Ross has not hit a whole lot to start the year, as evidenced by his .241/.267/.552 slash line, but he has hit some home runs in key times. That includes a solo home run against David Price in a 2-1 win against the Rays and two home runs in last night’s 7-3 victory over Houston. In the batter’s box, however, the Red Sox don’t need him to be great. Ross just needs to be better at hitting lefties than Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s career .201/.257/.333 line against them, and so far he has been.
Ross’s true worth comes from behind the plate though. He has thrown out 3 of 10 potential base-stealers this year, and expect that mark to grow even more as the season wears on (his career caught-stealing percentage is 39%). He also has gelled well with the team and pitchers seem to enjoy throwing to him based on post-game interviews and the likes.
So far, Ross has lived up to the modest hype of his being the best backup catcher in baseball. Simply due to the fact that he is 37 years old, he isn’t able to catch everyday now. That means that Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be out there, with his strikeouts and home runs, about two thirds of the time. When Ross’s name is penciled into the lineup, however, be sure to expect a good pitching game and maybe a timely home run.