Ross homers twice to power Dodgers

Ross homers twice to power Dodgers

PITTSBURGH -- Baseball officials, when faced with tough personnel choices, claim the players make the decisions by their performance.

If that's the case, Cody Ross isn't going anywhere soon after he challenged Olmedo Saenz for ownership of PNC Park on Thursday.

Playing to give J.D. Drew the day off, Ross slugged a grand slam and a three-run homer for seven RBIs, outproducing Saenz's home run and four RBIs, as the Dodgers coasted to a 13-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that salvaged a split of their four-game series.

Out of options after an impressive Spring Training, Ross made the Opening Day roster only because of a calf injury to Kenny Lofton. As Lofton's return approaches (probably Friday or Saturday), Ross has been anticipating the news that he's been either traded, claimed by another club, or worst of all, outrighted back to Triple-A because no other club wanted him in the Major Leagues.

Chances are, it will be none of the above. After Ross' muscle-flexing, which included a 440-footer off the back of the bullpen wall, manager Grady Little indicated that the club might make room for Lofton by moving a player other than Ross, and possibly by reducing the staff to 11 pitchers, even if it would be only a temporary solution.

"It's a possibility," he said. "That's something we were leaning toward before we got on the plane [to leave Pittsburgh]."

Little said his struggling relievers might be more effective if there were fewer of them pitching more regularly. That could mean optioning to Las Vegas a young reliever like Franquelis Osoria, whose ERA is 12.27 after he allowed a run Thursday.

Even more likely, something could be done with Yhency Brazoban, who is pitching as if the sore shoulder and elbow he battled during Spring Training still aren't sound. He was shut down for two weeks in Florida and might be headed back to the sidelines.

"The guys feel he's not throwing like he's capable of throwing," said Little.


"I want to stay here forever. I want to play for this organization and for the city. But I have no control over that. Normally, you're day-to-day. I'm minute-to-minute. I'm just trying to help my team win and figure everything else will take care of itself. And I just want to make it tough on whoever is making the decision."
-- Cody Ross

Dodgers hitters, however, are producing. The star of the day could have been Saenz, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, making him 8-for-14 with two homers and seven RBIs in this series and 19-for-34 with six home runs and 19 RBIs lifetime at PNC Park. He even hit the home run after being hit by a pitch on the left wrist, although he wouldn't advise making a habit of it.

"I can't really tell you why this is happening," said Saenz, who is batting .455 as part of a replacement platoon for the injured Nomar Garciaparra. "It's kind of weird."

What Ross did was rare. His seven RBIs were the most for a Dodger since Shawn Green had seven while hitting four home runs in Milwaukee May 23, 2002. Although Ross has never hit more than 22 home runs in any Minor League season, he's been known to go on long-ball binges.

Last year, he homered in four consecutive games at Triple-A Las Vegas, went deep in five out of six games and had 10 home runs in a 17-game span. In 2004, he hit a home run in five consecutive games, and in six out of seven games. In 2003, Ross homered in three consecutive games -- twice.

"I have gotten in grooves before, and you try to stay in it as long as you can until it ends. And it does end," Ross said. "I've been notorious for that my whole career, where I'll hit five or six in a week, where it seems like I can't miss the pitch and I feel good in the batter's box. I haven't had enough at-bats to get into that kind of zone, but I was in a zone today. It was one of those days you just don't want to end."

Ross went 3-for-5 and had a much better outcome than he did the last time he hit a grand slam, on Sept. 2, 2003, with Detroit. It was his first Major League home run, but before that game was over, Ross blew out his knee and required surgery.

"I didn't even think of that," he said, which is a good thing.

Nor has Ross been spending too much time worrying about his immediate future, although he said it crossed his mind that this could have been his last day as a Dodger.

"I hope it won't [be]," he said. "I want to stay here forever. I want to play for this organization and for the city. But I have no control over that. Normally, you're day-to-day. I'm minute-to-minute. I'm just trying to help my team win and figure everything else will take care of itself. And I just want to make it tough on whoever is making the decision."

Fine with Little.

"That tells me a lot about the guy," Little said of Ross' performance despite his personal uncertainty. "He's done nothing but perform well."

The season-high 13 runs meant the first win of the year for Derek Lowe, who allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings, and it meant a winning trip (4-3) through Pennsylvania for the Dodgers, who open a three-game series at home against San Francisco Friday night.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.