FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This is not the first time that David Ross has been in a Red Sox uniform. That happened in 2008, when Ross was a late-season acquisition for a team searching for catching depth.
His time with the Sox was short. But it was just enough to whet his appetite. Ross was obtained from the Reds in mid-August and experienced a bit of culture shock.
"I was just trying to sit back and take it all in," he recalled Tuesday morning. "You come from a market like Cincinnati to a market like Boston and all the fans. I was just trying to take it all in and see how a big market works. It was the first time I had been in a market like Boston and the fan following was just awesome to me. It was definitely different.
"I was kind of the third catcher (behind Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash). I think I was there for defensive reasons if they pinch-hit. They put me on the roster in the playoffs, which was kind of cool and fun. I got a little bit of taste of Boston. That's probably the reason why I'm back, because of how much fun it was to see those guys in 2008, how much fun they had and how close they were, how people treated one another, the front office included, and how much respect they had for the players in their roles. That's probably one of the reasons I'm back."
Ross was the team's first signing off the off-season and came as something of a surprise, given the presence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, along with the team's developing interest in Mike Napoli.
But the Sox valued Ross's defensive skills, his leadership and his ability to work with a pitching staff and offered him a two-year, 6.2 million deal.
"The way they treated me was No. 1," Ross said. "You could tell I was a priority. They came early on, saying all the right things and really committed to me as the whole deal. The way they treated me was above and beyond. And knowing the talent level here (helped). As a catcher, it's not fun to catch a bad staff. It makes the games long and a lot of hard work. Knowing the talent level here they have on the staff, that was kind of a bonus.
"It was just nice to see how they pursued me, how aggressive they were early on. You want to feel wanted by the organization that brings you in. That was one of the key things for me. It was nerve-wracking when there are all these teams calling and you're trying to make the right decision for you and your family. But it was a lot of fun to be wanted, I know that."
At the time, the Sox were unsure of their catching situation. They had yet to sign Napoli -- whom they initially envisioned catching some, before a hip condition changed his contract and altered the Red Sox' plans for him as solely a first baseman -- and they already had Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway.
"I think they were still undecided on what they were going to do when they were talking to me,'' Ross said. "They asked, 'Do you care who you play alongside or back up or whatever your role is?' I said I was going to try to be the best teammate I can and work hard on the days I play. I'm going to do the best I can to win and support whoever my teammate is. That's kind of how I was raised. I feel like that's the right thing to do.
"At this point in my career, I'm not trying to put up any Hall of Fame numbers or anything. I just want to win. I feel like this place gave me the best chance."
More recently, both manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington have said Saltalamacchia will be the first-string catcher with Ross as the backup and Lavarnway probably ticketed for a return to Triple A.
In Atlanta, Ross was credited with helping a number of top young pitchers (Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Jonny Venters, Julio Teheran) and as the Red Sox look to integrate number of younger pitchers themselves, it's believed that Ross's work in that area will be beneficial.
"Sometimes you have to think outside the box,'' Ross said. "That's where experience comes in. Veteran catchers like myself that have been around a little bit can still play because the knowledge you have upstairs helps out a little bit at crucial times. I hope to bring any experience and knowledge I have to this team and any questions those guys ask."
Ross is looking forward to working with Saltalamacchia and, from a distance, is impressed by the progress his teammate has made.
"When you have a catcher hitting 20-plus homers a year," he said, "that's impressive. This game's hard in general but catching is really, really tough. When you can be an everyday catcher and put up some good offensive numbers, especially power numbers back there (that's great).
"It will be a blast. The guy hit 25 jacks last year. It's going to be a lot of fun. He's a good guy, hard worker. It's going to be a lot of fun just talking it out. He's got experience. I've been privileged enough to be around some good catchers. He's one of those. I'm excited to work with him and be his teammate and help him with whatever he needs done."
And though Saltamacchia is younger and doesn't have as much big league experience, he does have a background with these Red Sox pitchers. That's a resource Ross can utilize.
"He'll have a good idea about what a guy can do and what he can't do," Ross said, "what this guy should be working on or not. We'll talk about that after we get going. But we've been talking about a lot of everything, so it's going to be fun."