David Ross, Jon Lester figure to be quite a pair for Cubs

SHARE David Ross, Jon Lester figure to be quite a pair for Cubs

Over the last two seasons with the Red Sox, Jon Lester was 14-6 with a 2.77 ERA in 29 starts with Ross behind the plate. | Steven Senne/AP

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs said they didn’t sign catcher David Ross to pair him with old pal and former Red Sox teammate Jon Lester.

But that doesn’t mean the 38-year-old bench player with a .233 career batting average can’t help the Cubs get their money’s worth out of Lester’s $155 million contract.

As Ross said after the battery buddies combined to shut down the Oakland Athletics in a Red Sox victory last May: “When you mix his stuff with my brains, it’s awesome.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he hasn’t decided whether to pair Ross with Lester consistently, but he’s open to such an arrangement. With the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon paired catcher Jose Molina with ace David Price in recent years.

It also would build in a few more days off for workhorse catcher Miguel Montero, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in December. The Cubs said they hope to give Montero more time off than he has had.

And then there’s this: Over the last two seasons with the Red Sox, Lester was 14-6 with a 2.77 ERA in 29 starts with Ross behind the plate. He was 17-13 with a 3.37 ERA in his other starts in that span (11 of which came after his trade to the A’s in July).

“I think a lot of that stuff’s getting kind of overblown right now,” Lester said. “It kind of makes it sound like I can’t throw to anybody but him. I had a pretty good career before he came along, as well.”

But even the all-business, no-nonsense Lester acknowledges an excellent rapport with Ross and laughed when somebody suggested Ross takes credit for Lester’s success.

“He probably does,” Lester said.

Was it a coincidence that, as Ross talked to reporters on the same subject, he wore a blue T-shirt with a Superman-style crest with an “R” in it?

Sort of, he said. It was inspired by a boy named Robby, who suffers from a rare disease.

“It stands for Ross, too, by the way,” he said.

And rapport? And run prevention? And rare?

“Just one of those things where you hit it off with some guys,” Ross said. “We talk a lot. I don’t think I do anything special for him. He trusts me. I built that trust, and sometimes that’s a big deal. We’ve been in some battles and some scenarios where things were a little crazy and we worked out of it and talked about it.

“I’m not here to toot my own horn. He’s really good.”

In the 2013 postseason, Ross caught all four of Lester’s starts after the American League Division Series. Lester allowed four runs in 27 innings against the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, losing only a 1-0 game to the Tigers in that championship run.

“He knows how to push me, when to push my buttons and when to kind of let off the gas and let me be,” said Lester, who wants to see what kind of rapport he can build with the new catchers around him this spring. “You still have to have an idea of what you’re doing regardless of who’s back there.”

But Maddon already sees why Les might be more with Ross.

“It’s pretty obvious that they get along well,” Maddon said. “They’re on the same frequency. You can’t get any more trust than the both of them have.

“Sometimes the comfort between the pitcher and the catcher, and the defensive component, can outweigh the offensive side of it, too. On the surface, it looks like you want David to catch Jon regardless. I don’t know if that’s true or not yet. But it’s really obvious how well these two guys get along.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub

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