Ross continues to tap into fountain of youth

Ross continues to tap into fountain of youth

CHICAGO -- The champagne is probably on ice. The party favors are ready. When David Ross hits his 100th career home run, the Cubs will celebrate. The 39-year-old catcher is one swing away after hitting No. 99 on Friday in a 9-4 victory over the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Ross isn't going to challenge Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk or Johnny Bench, who rank 1-2-3 lifetime among catchers on the career home run list, but he has topped his 2015 home run and RBI totals already and it's still early May.

"It's going to be one heck of a celebration," Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel said. "If he gets to 100 soon, we're going to start having to talk [Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] into trying to grab another year out of him. If he continues to do what he's doing now, he can only help us. He can't get too old for the game."

This is Ross' last season, or at least that's what he said before the games began. He worked this offseason on his swing, and it's paid off.

Ross on homer, win

"The guy takes a lot of pride in what he does," manager Joe Maddon said of Ross. "I'm not surprised in anything David does. Is he 39? To be playing the game at this level, just behind the plate -- everybody's worried about at the plate, I love [what he does] behind the plate. I believe a big part of Jason's good game today was the game David called behind the plate."

Hammel said he shook off Ross once and that was it.

"He holds you accountable back there," Hammel said. "In the sixth inning, when I gave up a couple of runs, I was frustrated. He was walking with me out to the mound, staring at me. He said, 'Don't you get mad. This will get away from you if you get mad.' He's out there doing his job."

The rest of the Cubs have been counting down to No. 100, and the players in the dugout all held one finger up as Ross rounded the bases in the fifth inning. He posted his first three-hit game since July 22, 2014, and his first three-RBI game since Sept. 30, 2012.

"It's all in good fun," Ross said of the countdown. "One hundred home runs in The Show is special to me. Again, it's all about the 'W's.'"

As the media approached Ross' locker, one of his teammates yelled, "What's Posey make?" In case you were wondering, the Giants' Buster Posey signed a nine-year, $167 million contract in 2013. Maddon knows how valuable Ross is to the Cubs.

"The offense has been icing on the cake," Maddon said. "This guy really is a field general when he's out there."

Having fun is a key part of Ross' mantra.

"I'm older and I can appreciate some things," Ross said. "When you have a group like this and you're a part of it and you've been around a little while and you see a special group, you should enjoy it. I'm trying not to take that for granted. This is a really fun group to be a part of and talented.

"If I don't get 100, it's not like I've had a terrible career," he said. "I am who I am. These guys are rooting for me to get 100 because I told them last year it's something I'd like to get -- a nice even number. If I hit 99 and we win a World Series, that would make me as happy as 100, for sure."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.