Ross excited to reunite with Red Sox

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Ross excited to reunite with Red Sox

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."

Ortiz provides magical moment for young fan

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Ortiz provides magical moment for young fan

David Ortiz has hit 507 career homers during the regular season. Some of them have won games. Some have come in extra innings, sending the Red Sox to immediate victory.

But it's doubtful that Ortiz has hit a homer that's meant more to an individual fan than the one he hit Friday night against the New York Yankees.

Former teammate Kevin Millar told Ortiz about a young boy named Maverick who has been battling a life-threatening illness. The two sent Maverick a video before Friday's night game that closed with Ortiz pointing to the camera and saying: "I'm going to hit a home run for you!''

Then, in the eighth inning, with the Red Sox and Yankees tied 2-2, Ortiz did just that, driving a first-pitch curveball from New York reliever Dellin Betances into the Monster Seats in left field.

"I would say this is just God putting his hands on things like that,'' Ortiz said, "because we all know that it is not that easy to come through like that. I've been able to get things done like that on a few different occasions. I guess I've been lucky.

"I would say God is the one who takes over this stuff.''

Said manager John Farrell: "It's a storybook situation. You can say that the legend of David Ortiz is far-reaching. I don't know if players fully understand their impact and how far-reaching their impact can be. But to have it play out like that is really a cool thing.''

Ortiz recalled a similar situation from a few years ago, when he visited a young girl dealing with brain damage at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

"When she got a little better,'' Ortiz recalled, "she came to Fenway and we celebrated her birthday here in the family room. We lit up some candles with the cake, sang Happy Birthday to her and that day I told her I was going to hit a home run for her. And I ended up doing it.''

Once the game began, Ortiz was focused on his at-bats. The fact that he was facing Betances in the eighth inning, against whom he was 0-for-7 lifetime with four strikeouts, didn't make it any easier.

"Everyone knows how good Betances has been through his career,'' Ortiz said. "When things like that happen, it makes you believe that there's something special out there that we should believe in.''

Ortiz said he wasn't focused on hitting the homer during the game.

"Listen, the promise is not a guarantee,'' he said. "This is baseball. This is not, 'I'm going to shoot a free throw' when no one's playing defense on you. Or 'I'm Steph Curry and I'm going to shoot a three-pointer.' You know that's going to happen regardless. This is baseball. What you're trying to do was make Maverick feel better, have that connection with him. And you throw that out there to make sure he has a friend that he can count on right here.

"But while the game is going on, I'm not thinking about it, to be honest with you. But I can get away with it because I'm a power hitter and if I put a good swing on it, it can happen. But everybody on planet earth understands that it's not that easy. But that when it happens, everyone understands. Me personally, I'm a huge believer in God and I think he had a lot to do with this.''

In fact, it wasn't until Ortiz rounded the bases, crossed home plate and was trotting back to the dugout that he saw Millar and Millar's own kids sitting right next to the dugout that he recounted his pre-game video to Maverick.

"That's when I started thinking about it,'' said Ortiz.

Maverick sent a video back to Ortiz -- via Millar -- after the game-winning homer.

"After the game,'' Ortiz recounted, "Millar came to me and he was crying when he showed me the video that Maverick sent. It was very touching. I started thinking about it right after. When I got home, I was like, 'I can't believe this really happened.' Millar told me that his parents haven't seen (Maverick) him that happy in a long time. He has been very sick. But I always say there's something special out there. I'm a huge believer in God.

"I'm crazy about kids. When you see a sick kid and see what he's going trough I can't imagine. I don't think I'm prepared to see my child struggle like that. It's good. It's a good thing when you can put a smile on a child."

Saturday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

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Saturday's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

Christian Vazquez is behind the plate catching Rick Porcello (4-0, 3.51 ERA), who looks to remain unbeaten, as the Red Sox continue their three-game weekend series with the Yankees on Saturday night (7:10) at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox won the series opener 4-2 on Friday night with a rally from a 2-0 deficit capped by David Ortiz' two-run homer in the eighth inning.

The full lineups:

YANKEES
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Starlin Castro 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
Chase Headley 3B
--
Michael Pineda RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Brock Holt LF
Christian Vazquez C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
--
Rick Porcello RHP

Ortiz's winning HR fulfills his promise to young fan

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Ortiz's winning HR fulfills his promise to young fan

David Ortiz's exploits with the Red Sox over the years can easily be described as "Ruthian."

That description became more fitting and Big Papi's legend grew Friday night when Ortiz made like the Babe by promising and delivering a home run to young fan named Maverick. 

Ortiz connected with a two-run shot over the Green Monster in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and give the Red Sox a 4-2 victory over the rival Yankees. 

Here's the video Ortiz and former Red Sox teammate Kevin Millar, now with the MLB Network, made for Maverick before the game.

And here's Maverick's response, via Millar: