SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Cody Ross was saying the scar is huge. Really huge. Like, he thought it was going to be this big – he held his fingers a few inches apart – and instead, it's like …
"Well, here," he said and pulled away the towel from his hip and, damn, if that thing doesn't look like he'd lost a giant scythe fight.
"Right?" he said.
There's a plate in there. And a bunch of screws. The rest of his baseball career is sealed up behind that soaring, arcing, pinkish scar, too, along with his plans to walk without a limp when that's done.
Last Aug. 11, on his way to first base, Ross was going to dive to the bag, and then he wasn't, and then he was sort of in the middle of both, and then on the back of a cart wishing he'd been more decisive. His hip basically came undone and took some important other pieces with it. He underwent surgery, spent three months on crutches without so much as resting a toe on the ground, and on Tuesday afternoon he strolled past a few Arizona Diamondbacks coaches and into a batting cage for batting practice, in a group with Mark Trumbo and Gerardo Parra and others.
Ross wore a large grin, as he is prone. At 33, he's been more than a decade in the league, with seven different teams. Some, like the Detroit Tigers (six games), Cincinnati Reds (two games), and Los Angeles Dodgers (22 games), for hardly any time at all. He won a World Series in San Francisco, but was gone by the time of the second one. He witnessed organizational implosion in Boston, but wasn't around for the rebirth. He's a season into a three-year deal with the Diamondbacks, and he's an outfielder in what looks like a very crowded outfield – Trumbo, A.J. Pollock and Parra are there as well – that manager Kirk Gibson refused Tuesday to sort out.
But Ross is upright, pretty healthy, and getting healthier, which is what brought him to Field 1 at Salt River Fields and put him in the batter's box, hands near his right ear, elbow high and taut, scar buried behind six months of rehab and a pair of Sedona red shorts.
"We got Cody today!?" coach Mark Grace bellowed.
Ross nodded and grinned.
"Bring a note from your mother?" Grace shouted. "I need to see a note from your mother! We've been worried sick about you!"
So began and ended the empathy of the big-league experience. Ross worked his rounds of batting practice evenly, his swing a bit spider-webbed but recognizable. He won't immediately run with the other guys, and the thought of sliding – "That's my sliding side," he said while patting his right hip – induced a theatrical cringe.
While there are bigger, faster, fancier players on the field, and Ross has never been an All-Star or anything like that, he's magnetic because it seems he's always done more with less. His OPS in 15 playoff games in 2010 was 1.076. He was MVP of the NLCS. He shows up and plays hard, and that's been good enough for a .264 career batting average and 130 home runs and that ring he damn well earned, and he was picked up that year by the Giants off waivers, and he's been traded twice for guys you've probably never heard of. So when he's lying near first base thinking he'd broken his hip in six places and has to be carried off and his mind fights the notion he might just have ended his baseball career, you have to root for a day like Tuesday, when it all looked good again.
Not long before the anesthesia knocked out Ross, the doctor told him his first priority was to ensure Ross wouldn't need hip-replacement surgery. The second priority was baseball. On Monday afternoon, the surgeon – Dr. Anthony Rohrer – told Ross that baseball was a full go.
"At the very beginning, and going into surgery, and just after, I had those thoughts," Ross said.
What if there wasn't any more? What if he couldn't?
"There was a chance," he said.
But, not now. He'll play again. He'll hit. He'll run and, you know, eventually slide. He'll mix in with the other outfielders, have Gibson figure out the whens and wheres, and keep pushing a career that's rather impressive for his own persistence.
"I'm not done," he said. "I feel like I've got a ton more left in me."
There will be bigger stories in spring training. Bigger names. Bigger influences on 2014. But not to Cody Ross.
And nobody will have a bigger scar.