Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press The Giants expressed a brief interest in the offseason, but Cody Ross now wears an Arizona uniform.

Ross, 2010 playoff hero, remains popular with Giants fans

Published: Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 - 6:23 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Cody Ross cut a familiar figure across Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday with his cleanly shaved head and stubbly shadow of a goatee.

That he wore the red jersey of the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks hardly dampened the enthusiasm of Giants fans, who lined the railing along the left-field line before the teams' Cactus League game seeking Ross' autograph.

"You're the best, Cody!" one yelled.

Two full seasons and a second World Series championship haven't dimmed the memories of 2010, or of the part Ross played in the Giants bringing San Francisco its first World Series title.

Sunday marked the first time since Ross and the Giants parted ways after the 2011 season that the outfielder and 2010 National League Championship Series MVP faced his former team.

Ross' name drew cheers before his only at-bat, in which Giants left-hander Barry Zito struck him out looking.

Zito said he recently saw Ross at a charity event, so this face-to-face meeting didn't register as momentous.

"But he's obviously loved here," Zito said.

Before the game, Ross said the fan reception was "a good feeling. They didn't forget."

Claimed off waivers by the Giants in August 2010, Ross played in 33 games down the stretch and became the starting right fielder in the postseason when Jose Guillen was left off the roster.

Ross gained folk-hero status in San Francisco by hitting five home runs in the playoffs – including three in the NLCS and two in Game 1 off Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay – in between telling stories of how he grew up wanting to be a rodeo clown.

Ross batted .240 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in 121 games in 2011, and the Giants later chose not to bring him back.

He signed a one-year deal with Boston and batted .267 with 22 homers and 81 RBIs in 130 games in 2012 for a dysfunctional Red Sox team that finished last in the American League East.

Ross enjoyed his time in Boston, calling it a "learning experience," but his desire was to return to the West Coast. He said the Giants contacted him this winter to express tentative interest.

"They called and just told us to keep them in mind," Ross said. "I kind of figured what they meant was if they didn't sign (center fielder Angel) Pagan, there was a chance they might take a run at me. But Pagan, they came to a deal, and rightfully so."

Things worked out well for Ross, though, when the Diamondbacks called him "out of nowhere." He agreed to a reported three-year, $26 million deal in December to play in Arizona, where he makes his home.

"My wife and I were jumping up and down," Ross said.

Ironically, Ross used the same term Sunday describing his memory of the Diamondbacks on Sept. 23, 2011, the day Arizona clinched the National League West against the Giants at Chase Field and celebrated with the defending World Series champs looking on.

As part of the merriment, the Diamondbacks took a running leap into the pool beyond the outfield wall at their home park.

Watching from the visiting dugout, Ross said it was "a bad feeling." Now, the thought of a dip isn't so bad.

With the again defending-champion Giants and the deep-pocketed Los Angeles Dodgers in the division, Ross said he's sure there are "a lot of people that are going to pick us third, but that's where we want them to pick us."

"I want to jump in the pool now," Ross said. "It's crazy how it works."

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