SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross has been associated with Bo Jackson since suffering a fractured hip Aug. 4 on a play at first base, the same injury that ended Jackson's NFL career. Now, the comparison has a different meaning as Ross recovers from surgery.
Remember Bo Jackson's climbing-the-wall catch in Baltimore on July 11, 1990? Ross is making the Bo Jackson-catch of recoveries as he prepares for the start of the 2014 season.
"Unreal," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
Ross has made so much progress in his rehabilitation that the D-backs have been forced to keep pushing forward their projections for his return. At the winter meetings, Ross' anticipated return was said to be April or May. In January, the timeline was moved up to April, perhaps by the start of the March 31 series against San Francisco. Two weeks ago, general manager Kevin Towers indicated Ross might able to accompany the D-backs to Australia for their season-opening series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 22.
Ross and the D-backs have been careful not to set a time line, other than he would be healthy enough to attack the season at full-go when he returns. If that does not include the trip to Australia, so be it. His goal is more long-term: he is shooting to become the National League comeback player of the year. The way his recovery has gone, he could have almost a full season to nail that down.
"That's sort of the ultimate gratification, I guess, after putting in so much hard work and effort through the offseason is to get back on the field and help my team on an every-day basis," Ross said. "To have a chance to not only help the team but be comeback player, that's a great goal."
Ross, 33 in December, has the resume for it. He has three seasons of 20-plus home runs, including 22 with Boston in 2012, and two seasons of at least 80 RBIs. He has always been potent against left-handers, hitting .297 against them in his career and .391 against them last season.
"I'm trying to be smart about it," Ross said. "It would be awesome to be ready for Sydney, but that's not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to play for the majority of all of the season. It's going great, that's for sure."
--LHP Patrick Corbin, 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA in his first full season as a starter in 2013, has added about five pounds after working to strengthen his legs and his core. He is up to 205 after being drafted at about 165 four years ago. "I think it will help in the long run," Corbin said. "Through the course of the year, to have a little bit more weight behind you and have a little less stress on their arm and your body. To just be able to get through a full season."
--RHP J.J. Putz, for the first time in his four seasons here, is not the nominal closer entering spring training after the off-season acquisition of RHP Addison Reed. Putz, 37, is not ceding the job without a battle, but also is taking a team-first approach. "I want to be the guy at the back end, but at the same time, where I'm at in my career, I want to win a World Series. I think we just want to win and whatever gives us the best chance day-in and day-put to win is going to be what we are going to go with."
--RHP Brandon McCarthy was named to start the D-backs' first exhibition game Feb. 26 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and if he pitched every fifth day from that point he would be in line to start the second game of D-backs' regular season two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Australia on March 23. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has not named his starters for the Australia trip, and said it would be a mistake to read anything into McCarthy's first spring training start.
--CF A.J. Pollock enters spring training as the D-backs' center fielder after winning the job last season, but he is taking nothing for granted. "No one's going to hand me a job here," Pollock said. "I don't want to just be handed something. I don't think that works in the long run. I feel like it's going to catch up to you, and eventually someone's going to pass you if you've got that mentality." Pollock, who made the team last spring only after injuries to Cody Ross and Adam Eaton, hit .269 in 137 games and was second among NL rookies in stolen bases (12), doubles (28) and multi-hit games (35).
--Dave Duncan was hired as a pitching consultant in the offseason, and the D-backs have adopted his less-is-more throwing program in camp. D-backs pitchers threw off a mount only four times in the first 12 days of spring training, a schedule Duncan developed while in St. Louis about 10 years ago. "I started noticing guys not getting hurt or sore, but getting achy during the course of the spring," Duncan said. "Those days that they were achy, they didn't really get any quality work in. I started trying to figure out what we could do to minimize or eliminate that achiness during spring. That's when i started giving them more time between throwing sessions."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Does it give us another challenge, yeah. I'm not sure how the Dodgers will process all that, but I think we've viewed it in a positive view. We should. It is exciting to go over there. We are honored and humbled to be able to go over there and represent major league baseball. We're planning on playing really good over there. So if you want to play good, in my opinion, you have to have a good attitude about that." -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, after Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke said there was "absolutely no excitement" about the trip to Sydney, Australia, for the first two games of the regular season March 22-23.