Diamondbacks Spring Questions, #2: The recovery of Ross

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For one reason or another, Cody Ross seemed cursed last year, appearing in 94 games - the first season since 2007 he'd had less than 120. Given the way 2013 ended, how are his prospects for this year?

I suspect Cody Ross won't remember August 11 with any degree of fondness. That's the day Ross stumbled while legging out a routine grounder to first - proving wrong whoever said "hustle doesn't hurt." Said Cody, "I'm running down to first base and I know I'm out so I started to shut it down. And right before the bag, my cleat caught, and when that happened, I started to fall forward. Instead of rolling, the bag was right in front of me, so I tried to catch myself and I put my foot out and my leg just hyperextended. I heard a crack and a pop and fell to the ground." He had dislocated his hip with such force, the energy of the bone popping out actually broke part of the hip socket's rim.

Surgery followed, inserting a pair of metal plates with half a dozen screws into the injured joint, and Ross's return seemed questionable, unable even to put any weight on his leg for three months. Part of the uncertainty was due to the freakish nature of the incident. This wasn't a common sports injury, where thousands have done more or less the same thing before, providing a reliable timeline of treatment and recovery. There was little or no precedent for this kind of thing - at least among healthy professional athletes, rather than people advertising Life Call systems ("I've fallen and I can't get up!"). Here, some had genuine concerns whether Ross would ever play again.

Fortunately, things do not appear anywhere near that bad, but it was still a pleasant surprise when, on January 7, the team Tweeted out that Ross "has resumed all baseball activities," apparently ahead of schedule. Ross told KTAR, "It was a tough, grueling few months, (but rehabilitation) is definitely a lot better and quicker than all of us thought." There was recently video of Ross taking batting practice, and it hardly looked like he had ever been injured. However, one imagines it will be running - and in particular, running at full speed - which will put the greatest stress on the repaired hip, and until we see Ross doing that, he won't be fit to return.

If Ross is healthy

The balance of the Diamondbacks outfield has shifted significantly from last year when, on a number of occasions, we were able to run out an entirely left-handed hitting outfield, in Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra. Kubel and Eaton have gone, with the only new arrival being the right-handed Mark Trumbo, leaving our outfield candidates skewing heaving right-handed. As noted previously, both Trumbo and Ross show significant splits over their careers, hitting left-handed pitching very well, but struggling against right-handers - the same may end up being said of A.J. Pollock, though small sample size applies there.

In the one-third of games or so where we face a southpaw, that obviously won't be a problem, but on the days where there's a left-hander on the mound, things get trickier. What might make most sense - sitting Trumbo or Ross in favor of, say, Martin Prado - would have negative PR ramifications. Considering the cost of both players, and their status, turning them in to platoon players would seem perilously close to an admission of failure. However, with both Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers apparently under the microscope, can they afford other than to maximize their resources? If I had to predict, we may see a shift in how our outfield lines up over the course of the season.

If Ross isn't healthy

Should Ross not be ready to go on Opening Day, there's a different issue, because the departure of Eaton means the 2014 Diamondbacks don't have as much depth as the 2013 model. It would likely mean a standard outfield of Trumbo, Pollock and Parra, with little or no variation between left- and right-handed pitchers. Prado could be used on occasion to spell one of these, but if the team wanted to carry a genuine fourth outfielder, the drop-off would be quite steep. For your consideration: the other outfielders currently on the 40-man roster are Tony Campana, Ender Inciarte, Alfredo Marte and Matt Tuiasosopo.

The majors have already seen three of the four, but haven't been overly impressed, at least offensively, with OPS+ of 69 for Campana, 47 for Marte and 76 for Tuiasosopo. Campana's speed would obviously be an asset, and Marte is still only 24, so some growth may perhaps be expected. But I think it would probably be in everyone's best interests if Ross continues his apparently good progress towards complete fitness. Even if he isn't quite ready for the Australia trip, having him healthy for or close to our home opener, would be a significant boost to an offense which needs to rebound, having scored almost fifty fewer runs in 2013 than the previous season.

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