Ross, D-backs being patient with recovery
Outfielder knows Australia games unlikely, but shooting for Arizona opener
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was a dark moment last year after Cody Ross's right hip shattered, running out a routine ground ball, when he thought his career might be over.
"It wouldn't be human not to think about something like that after the kind of significant injury I had," Ross said Sunday. "But I pushed those thoughts quickly out of my mind and started back on the recovery process. I haven't looked back since then."
Ross was not in the outfield Sunday for the D-backs against the National League West-rival Giants at Scottsdale Stadium, but he's getting a little bit closer every day.
Considering the type of devastating injury he suffered, Ross says he physically feels at about an 80 percent capacity right now, with the goal of being ready by at least Arizona's secondary season opener against these same Giants on March 31 at Chase Field. The trip to Australia, where the D-backs will open against the Dodgers on March 22-23, is now only two weeks away, and that might be a tad ambitious for Ross.
Ross knows he's just not there yet.
"There's sort of some fine-tuning," Ross said. "Sprinting at 100 percent instead of 80 percent. Running the bases, which we'll get into tomorrow. Turns, so far it's been very subtle. No sliding yet -- hopefully we'll do that sometime this week."
But D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Ross is right on his scheduled timetable.
"He was running around the outfield the other day; he's full weight-bearing," Gibson said. "He's started some arcs and he'll be getting on the dirt real soon. I think we're looking at about the middle of the month, around the 13th. That's not a hard date, but around where we're looking at getting him into a game."
Ross has had a litany of injuries in his life: a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a broken leg in middle school, the recurrence of a strained left calf during last year's Spring Training that kept him on the disabled list until mid-April and established the pattern of his first season with the D-backs after signing a three-year, $26 million free-agent contract.
But nothing prepared Ross for the injury he sustained Aug. 11 at Chase Field against the Mets. During the bottom of the first inning, Ross smacked a grounder in the hole between third and short that was fielded cleanly by third baseman Wilmer Flores. Ross ran the ball out, but collapsed just before he reached first base.
"My spike caught," Ross recalled. "And when my spike caught, I fell forward instead of diving. I tried to catch myself and I tried to reach out for the bag. It was too far away. My knee hyperextended and my hip took all the force. It was just a freak deal."
The injury was career-threatening and came at a time when Ross had just started to find a groove after missing so much of Spring Training, taking the first half of the season to round into shape. In his last 18 games, Ross hit .350 with three homers and 13 RBIs, that after hitting .261 with just five homers and 25 RBIs in his first 76 games. For the month of August, he was hitting at a .364 clip. And suddenly Ross' first season in Arizona was over after 94 games.
Two days after the incident, Ross underwent reconstructive surgery on his right hip.
"The back wall of [the hip] was broken off, so they went in and put that back together," Ross said. "They put a plate over it with some screws."
And like Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and his famous left ankle, Ross will have the plate and screws in there for the rest of his life. In the aftermath, Ross was on crutches for three months and didn't begin hitting again until November. It was then that he suffered through his darkest of moments.
"All the other injuries I've had helped me fight through this," Ross said. "In the end, I knew I was going to be all right. The range of motion is the toughest thing to get back post-surgery. Also the muscle atrophy that you suffer is very tough to get back. All that stuff, I feel [some pain], but it has definitely gotten better over time. It continues to get better. I'd say the pounding and running is probably the biggest thing. It's that contact within the joint that really matters."
Given all that, the D-backs are being very protective about monitoring Ross's progress. They are relying on Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra to comprise the starting outfield. A fourth outfield slot, in the event that Ross isn't ready, is still up for grabs.
The quick return of Ross would be nice, but there is no rush.
"No, there is no rush," Ross said. "I want to get back and be a big part of this team. The goal is to be ready by Opening Day. Here or in Australia, does it really matter? There are only two games over there. Ideally, it would be awesome. If not, it gives me another week to get ready.
"So we'll see. Neither one of them are out of the question."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.