David Ross joined Bruce Levine and Jordan Bernfield during Saturday’s Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score). Ross shared his views on the importance of being a good teammate and what he’s learned over his many years in the big leagues.
Ross recently exchanged texts with his former locker-mate Dexter Fowler. While Fowler would not tip his hand on where he is going to sign, he hopes to return to the Cubs.
David Ross also talked about being reunited with his former teammates John Lackey and Jason Heyward. Ross is looking forward to playing with Ben Zobrist. And he thinks Jon Lester is going to have a very good season.
On getting his teammates going on a daily basis, even with hugs and kisses
“[Laughs] I am not afraid to do anything for a win, let’s be honest. Those guys are so talented. I mean when they are locked in it’s a fun thing to be a part of. You guys see that every day. Yeah, I’m not afraid to give hugs and kisses. I’m a lover. I’ll go in there and hug on those guys and get them to wake up. When almost a 40-year old man hugs and kisses some of these guys on the neck, they wake right up. [Laughs]”
On where he learned how to be a good teammate
“I kind of took throughout my career, I just kind of evolved in seeing things that I’ve loved from other teammates and what they’ve brought. I think of the first couple of guys Dave Roberts and Robin Ventura, actually two future managers now that Dave’s got a job with the Dodgers. Both those guys come in with high energy, all positive things, taking each day as its own, the new day and bringing that same energy every day. Forget about last night win or lose and just come in and say hello to everybody, get everybody fired up and get ready, get going for work. And then over time I think just pulling pieces from each person, even Joe [Maddon]. Joe resets himself to be the same guy today before he walks into the clubhouse. I think those are the guys that I’ve seen where if you can bring that energy, that smile, that ‘Hey guys what’s going on today, how’s everybody doing?’ kind of attitude then it’s one of those things that the day starts off the right way.”
“There are a lot of good guys in there and especially the guys they are bringing in, the new guys. I’ve known Lack [John Lackey] for a little while now and I’ve got some history with him from Boston. I mean he is just a fun guy. Same kind of thing, he’s that guy when you walk in, when your eyes meet, he just puts a smile on your face. He’s a special human being, a special competitor. All those guys … [Jason] Heyward, I can’t wait to get a chance to play with Ben Zobrist. I’m really excited about being his teammate for the long haul, throughout this year. I’ve watched this guy and how he goes about his business. It’s been impressive from the other side. Heyward, you know he’s my locker-mate in Atlanta. I kind of watched him grow up over time and seeing what a great human being he is and obviously a special player. I’m looking forward to this year. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ve got a lot of good guys. It’s just really fun to go to battle every day with this group of guys.”
On Dexter Fowler being a hot topic in Chicago, with the Cubs and White Sox still having interest in him, what does Fowler bring to the game after finally finding his comfort zone with the Cubs last year?
“It’s a common theme that carried throughout our team and clubhouse. All the way from the front office all the way down to the coaching staff to the players, I can’t say enough about the guys that we had last year and Dexter [Fowler] was a huge, huge part of that. He set the tone on a daily basis at the top of our order. I love Dex. I was texting back and forth, you know, just trying to see what’s going on and you know, trying to get a feel if we’ve got any shot. He’s a big part of our team and was a big part of our team. It just speaks about baseball how sometimes things just … you get to play with a guy for a year and they’ve got to move on and he’s got to do what’s right for him and his family and his baseball career. But I can’t say enough about the impact he had on our team last year and obviously it’s a guy that if he does come back you welcome him with open arms because he’s that big of an impact.”
On where Dexter Fowler said he’s at right now
“He was keeping it close to the vest. He said, ‘Man I hope I get to come back.’ I think he would love to be a part of … he realizes, I think everybody realizes around the league and especially if you were in our locker room last year, what a special place it is to play. You see that in the free agents who are signing. So, he wouldn’t give me any definite answers about where he was going, but he definitely was like, ‘Man, you know I hope I’m back. Miss you. How’s your off-season going? How’s the family?’ I was just kind of checking in. I knew he was not going to give me a whole lot of details because then I would say it on a radio show. [Laughs] I got to hold back a little bit. [Laughs]”
On the Cubs being built to be a good team this year and last season surprising teams with the way they played, as the veteran leader and an extra coach on the field and in the dugout for a team picked by most as the best team in the National League, how does he keep everybody feeling and playing as loose as last year?
“Reflecting back on last year, the reason why I signed with Chicago, besides Jon Lester, the commitment to winning and Joe Maddon, I saw how good that this team was. If you played this team two years ago, you saw how good, where they were going. You see the writing on the wall. They were coming. And I think what really put us over the edge was the talent of the young group that came up in Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and [Kyle] Schwarber and those guys kind of putting us over the top and Joe, our great leadership. I think moving forward what really you have to focus on is the daily process. We talk a lot about that already and that goes along with coming into the locker room with the same attitude every day, which we were talking about earlier. Let’s come in. Let’s game plan and figure out how we are going to beat this team and this starting pitcher today. We are going to go out, we are going to play as hard as we can and do the things that we do well. Win or lose, we come in the next day and you do the exact same thing. I think if you can stay in that process and in that frame of mind and not get ahead of yourself, or dwell on whatever bad happened or you think is going to happen and just stay in the moment, I think we won’t have a problem. And Joe does a great job of that.”
On seeing many bullpens evolve over his years in the majors, what impact will the playoff experience relievers like Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm received last year have on the Cubs bullpen moving forward?
“I think you gain the experience in the most intense atmosphere you can pretty much imagine in being in the playoffs and being in a packed stadium, home and road just rocking and pulling against you or pulling for you. Those kinds of emotions and how you handle your emotions and keep them in check and are able to perform your job or your duty that night, it just makes it a lot easier next go around. When you see what it takes to go through a full 162-game season and bring you’re A-Game as many nights as you possibly can and what it takes to do that, I think you are able to prepare better in the off-season. I think you’re able to be a little more comfortable throughout the Spring Training and the beginning of the year and realize it’s a process to get to be at the top of our game by the end of the year.”
On watching Hector Rondon have success early in the season, lose it, regain his confidence and dominance out of the bullpen, how much pride does he and Miguel Montero take for helping Rondon last season?
“You know what my favorite thing is Bruce? Is seeing guys overcome adversity. I think you grow from adversity when you hit a little rough patch and you come out of it on the other side. It’s a lot of fun to witness. I think what I bring with my experience, and like you said being able to catch some amazing bullpens in my career, is just that confirmation of going up to a guy and say, ‘Hey buddy, you’re really good. Relax, don’t get down on yourself because you have electric stuff and you’re very, very nasty.’ So, just that confirmation from a veteran player sometimes is all a guy needs, and maybe a tweak here and there. Me and Miggy [Miguel Montero] and the catching corps in general, we are always trying to get the most, and Bos [Chris Bosio] and [Mike] Borzello, we are trying to get the most out of our group. It’s a fun group to work with an obviously Rondon is a huge part of that … and Stropy [Pedro Strop] and all of those guys.”
On Jon Lester knowing the adjustments he needs to make in order to have better start to the season than last year, does he think Lester was pressing last season coming to a new team? How will Lester maybe approaching things differently going into Spring Training this year?
“Of course, I mean when you come to a new team and especially when you have … I bounce around to many teams so it’s a little bit old hat for me, but when you’ve been with the same organization for a long time and then you get a huge contract and coming to a new city, there’s always a sense of trying to prove yourself, prove your worth and show what you can do. Sometimes more is less and I think that was the case with Jon last year. He did get a little behind the eight-ball in Spring Training, like you mentioned. When you throw off a guy’s routine and schedule because of some dead arm stuff, or whatever was going on, I think it just throws you off your norm. So, he was still trying to go out and prove and just didn’t have anything on it. I think you’ll see a guy that comes in this year … I think he’s going to be dominant from the start. He knows the league a little better. He knows the hitters a little better, just the whole sketch of being a Chicago Cub and what that entails. And what his role is on the team. He will be much more prepared this year for that.”
On how difficult it will be for Kyle Schwarber to try to hone his skills at two positions at the same time this spring when he has a long way to go defensively as a catcher and a left fielder
“I think first you look at the character of the guy and Kyle is probably one of the hardest working young guys I’ve ever been around. This guy wants to learn as much as he can about the game. This guy is going to be a leader in the clubhouse by the end of the year. He is going to work his tail off and go do more before he does less. It is going to be a lot of work on him, but he’s one of those guys that he’s got that engine that just keeps going. Catching, catching is hard enough in Spring Training with all of the stuff he’s got to do and the drills we go through early in the mornings. But he’s got to learn some outfield too. It’s going to be tough on him in spring. I’m sure Davey [Dave Martinez] and Borzello and Joe will all kind of monitor that and do what’s right for him. And make sure he gets his work but not wear him out. It’s going to be interesting to see the work he’s going to get in this year and this spring and obviously we will be there to help him out along the way, me and Miggy and Borzey [Mike Borzello] and everybody. This guy is a special human being as well as a special player. It’s fun to go to work with him every day.”
On being told to start getting ready to come into a game in the seventh inning, telling Dave Martinez to bench him or trade him if that’s the case, and preparing to play twice a week at this stage of his career versus entering a game in the seventh or eighth inning
“I get overexposed if I get out there too much. You know what’s fun is what I’m looking forward to … you know the old clubhouse there wasn’t a whole lot of area to get loose, just throwing into a net in there. The new clubhouse is going to have some area we can run around, get stretched. We’ve got some machines that are going to be in the new weight room that will help warm us up and stuff. I’m looking forward to that. We’ll have the batting cages down there where I can really let the ball, throw it the length of the batting cage. So this year it will be a lot easier to get this old body cranked up and ready to go.”
And David Ross said the distance between the new clubhouse and the dugout will help the players get their heart rate up before they enter the game.