EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 5, 2013

Q and A: David Ross talks catching, Red Sox pitchers

Christopher Smith
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Red Sox catcher David Ross isn’t known for being an intimidating hitter, although his three homers so far have been absolute blasts.

What he is known for is his strong defense. He threw out a National League-leading 48 percent of base stealers in 2009 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. He also caught 44 percent of base stealers last year.

Entering Friday, Red Sox pitchers have combined for a 2.69 ERA with Ross catching.

The 36-year-old signed with the Red Sox this offseason partly because he saw the potential of the rotation. He wanted to work with hurlers such as Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester.

“Catching a good pitching staff is like priority No. 1,” Ross said. “When I looked up and down their roster there’s a lot of good pitchers here.”

Ross recently went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune baseball writer Christopher Smith who writes the Smitty on Baseball blog on the Tribune website.

Smitty: Junichi Tazawa has been throwing his fastball almost 70 percent of the time this year. Will he need to mix his pitches more if he becomes a starter or closer in the coming years?

Ross: Yeah. You can’t be too predictable in the closer role either. You can be under the radar a little bit in the seventh and eighth. But in the ninth inning everyone kind of locks in and watches a lot of film of a closer, trying to get that edge.

Smitty: Koji Uehara gets pretty pumped up after a clean inning. Anyone else have that energy?

Ross: I love that about him. I love the energy. You know who else does that? Andrew Bailey brings a great energy on the mound. He’s coming and it’s almost like he needs to slow down. You’ve got to calm him down. Koji is real poised but he really is excited when he gets out of it. He takes his job very seriously and he understands how important his inning is. And that’s why he is so excited.

Smitty: Do you study more film and scouting reports to prepare yourself as a hitter or to prepare your pitchers for upcoming hitters?

Ross: Hundred percent it is more for the pitchers. I do more homework for the pitchers as far as going to the scouting reports and looking at swing percentages, locations, batting average location. I’ll watch a little bit of video on a guy (for own offense) and that’s all I need because you don’t get true knowledge until you get in the box.

Smitty: When did you start catching?

Ross: Little League. My dad said, ‘David needs to catch. See if he likes catching’ because I was playing second base at 10 years old and second basemen are a dime a dozen. I was a fat kid, too.

Smitty: The Red Sox have had trouble developing catchers. But that probably can be said about most major league organizations. Who are some of the elite defensive catchers?

Ross: They are hard to find. Buster Posey, Brian McCann, (Joe) Mauer, Russell Martin is a really good catcher. He has ups and downs.

Smitty: What do you feel makes a good catcher defensively?

Ross: It’s the game-calling, it’s the framing, it’s the blocking, it’s the target, it’s the throwing guys out. Leadership abilities. Experience goes into that. You’ve got to have a knowledge of pitchers and how they think. And you’ve got to want to think like those guys sometimes and get in their heads — and then separating that with hitting, which is a whole other ballgame.

Smitty: Ryan Dempster obviously has pitched well. How does he get outs without a blazing fastball?

Ross: His stuff is really sharp and his fastball is coming out of the same spot as his slider and his splitter.

Smitty: He seems like he has learned to become more of a thinking pitcher as he has gotten older.

Ross: This game is a game of failure but it has a funny way of humbling you when you think you can just not think your way through the game. That’s why you see so many veterans hang around and other guys come and go. The veterans have learned the game and know how to make adjustments. It’s a game of adjustments.

Smitty: Everyone talks about how valuable manager John Farrell has been to the pitching staff, but pitching coach Juan Nieves has been great too, it seems.

Ross: I think Juan is one of the best pickups they made this offseason along with John. Juan is so positive, but he gets his point across about work.

I think Juan and John and the preparation that we go through as a unit — the pitching staff, the catching staff and the coaching staff — there is more information that I feel like we had this year than probably they had last year, just listening.

Smitty: How has Farrell and Nieves had a positive effect on Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester?

Ross: They do their homework, they set up good scouting reports and then Buchholz can really execute the pitches you want him to execute. He can really manipulate the ball. He’s got three to four plus-major league pitches. You don’t know what you’re getting in an at-bat if you’re the hitter. It’s a tough skit.

Same with Lester. You don’t know what you’re getting with him. Those guys can really do stuff with the ball and are really deceptive and can move the ball in and out of the strike zone.

Follow Eagle-Tribune baseball writer Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyonMLB