Ross' spring pickoff work paying off

Veteran catcher nabbing base-stealers, putting up big backstop stats

Ross' spring pickoff work paying off

MILWAUKEE -- David Ross isn't surprised he's been throwing out potential base-stealers. The Cubs' veteran catcher did a little extra work this spring on his defense.

On Wednesday, Ross recorded his fourth catcher pickoff of the season, nabbing the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy at second base. Ross' four pickoffs and 2.15 catcher's ERA both lead the Majors. He also threw out three baserunners trying to steal, and his eight caught-stealings this season are tied for third-most in the Majors.

Ross said he had some down years as far as his throwing, which also contributed to his decision to retire after this season. But the 39-year-old catcher didn't want to go out quietly.

"I work hard in the offseason and some years are better than others, and some months are better than others," he said. "If I can put the balls on the bag a little more consistently, it will help our pitching staff."

It helped in the eighth inning Wednesday when Justin Grimm was pitching, because the Cubs' reliever did a slide-step.

"He can vary his times and can be pretty long sometimes, but he gave me a nice quick slide-step, which helped out a lot," Ross said. "We had a feeling they were running [when the count was] 2-2."

Grimm agreed, and said if he would have used his normal delivery, the runner -- Jonathan Villar -- most likely would have stolen second.

"You let the situation dictate it," Grimm said. "It was perfect timing for it."

Worth noting
Travis Wood drew a bases-loaded walk in the 13th inning Wednesday to drive in the game-winning run. According to Elias, over the last 25 seasons, the only other pitcher besides Wood to get a game-winning RBI on a bases-loaded walk in extras was the Dodgers' Chan Ho Park, who did so against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 19, 1996.

According to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, Wood is the first true Cubs pitcher to draw an extra-inning walk since Matt Karchner did so April 9, 2000, in Cincinnati. Catcher John Baker, who had pitched in relief, walked in extras during a relief appearance on July 29, 2014, against the Rockies.

• Cubs manager Joe Maddon was impressed with how all of the players were on the top step of the dugout during Wednesday's extra-inning game to support their teammates. Everyone was awake and ready to go for Thursday's series finale, too. Bench coach Dave Martinez did a quick survey, and nobody wanted the day off.

Part of the reason for the Cubs' success is that the players like each other. They have dinners together on the road, and there's some good-natured razzing.

"The only thing we don't do is throw food at each other," Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta said, "and that might happen at some point. We like each other."

• Maddon is planning ahead and considering a no-technology day during Spring Training next year.

"It'd be fun to find out who can survive 24 hours without the Internet, cell phone," Maddon said.

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.