Calf injury shuts down Ross for 2 to 3 weeks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross will be shut down for two to three weeks with a lower left leg injury, but he expects to be back in time to prepare himself enough for Opening Day.

An MRI on Monday showed a strained muscle in his lower left calf, and Ross seemed very optimistic about a quick recovery.

“It’s just a little minor setback,” Ross said. “I’m just glad it’s at this time and not later on in the spring or during the season.

“I figure give it a couple weeks of treatment and strengthening it. I’m just going by their plan. We’ve got a great group of trainers that are going to kind of coach me along and get me back out there as quick as I can without possible re-injury. Luckily we have time.”

Added D-backs manager Kirk Gibson: “I was surprised by that diagnosis.”

Ross, 32, signed a three-year deal with the D-backs this winter and replaces Justin Upton, whom the D-backs traded to Atlanta in January, in right field. Ross spent last season with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .267 with 81 RBI, 22 home runs and a .326 on-base percentage.

Should Ross be ready to play again in two weeks, he would have 10 games in 12 days to get ready for Opening Day. Even that could be cutting it close, but if the recovery takes three weeks, Ross would have just five games to play before Opening Day and would finish with just nine Cactus League appearances.

Gibson said the team will evaluate Ross at the two-week mark, and see then if he’s able to start running. Gibson clarified the plan is for Ross to not run for two weeks. That would mean Ross won’t be back on the field in two weeks, but Gibson said the possibility exists that the injury heals quicker during treatment, speeding up Ross’s return. Either way, Gibson is planning on two weeks right now.

Luckily for the D-backs, the outfield is a position of depth. Gerardo Parra, who would likely start if Ross’ injury heals slowly, can play all three spots, and A.J. Pollock and Tony Campana provide additional depth.

Still, Ross is confident he can be ready to go nine innings with even just a few games to prepare. Gibson said he hasn’t thought yet about a minimum number of appearances or at-bats he’d like Ross to get before the start of the season.

“I’ve gone to spring trainings and had little stuff like this where I only had a few games to get ready to play,” Ross said. “As long as I can go on April 1, that’s all I care about.

“As long as I feel healthy and can push it and not hold back, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be ready to go.”

Ross isn’t sure how the injury happened. He first felt it March 1, was held out two games and returned last Sunday. He played three innings before exiting with more tightness and was sent for an MRI.

Ross said he will still be able to hit and throw over the next couple of weeks because he only feels the injury when he runs. He said he and the medical staff have discussed going over to the minor-league side of camp and standing in for some at-bats so he’s still seeing live pitching.

Ross said he’s frustrated to have his first spring training with the D-backs disrupted.

“I feel terrible,” Ross said. “Obviously I wanted to come in and play and get accustomed to playing with my team. To have this setback, it stinks. But there’s nothing I can do about it now except be positive and look forward to getting back out there with them.”

HILL RETURNING SOON

Second baseman Aaron Hill was held out of the starting lineup Tuesday, his fourth straight game as he deals with quadriceps tightness. He pinch-hit Monday and said Tuesday he’d like to return to the lineup Wednesday, but Gibson made that sound unlikely.

“Probably not,” Gibson said. “He’s going (pinch hit) again tonight, probably hit tomorrow and play the next day.”

That would mean Hill could be back Thursday against the Brewers.

“We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow,” Gibson said. “We don’t want it to turn into something like Cody.”

NOTES

Team USA and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira withdrew from the World Baseball Classic with a wrist injury. Team USA wants to replace Teixeira with a starting first baseman, so could the D-backs’ Paul Goldschmidt be an option? Perhaps, but not yet. Gibson said he has not heard from Team USA officials, who have contacted White Sox manager Robin Ventura about possibly adding Paul Konerko. Mets first baseman Ike Davis is also reportedly being considered, and Team USA prefers a left-handed hitter.

Gibson said the competition between Wil Nieves and Rod Barajas for the backup catcher job is getting tougher as camp goes on. He’s been asking the catchers to stay for most of each game and picking their brains afterward. “I ask them what they see, ask questions, see if they’re paying attention,” Gibson said. “I want to know if they have the ability to help us get out of trouble.” Gibson said he’s not ready to share any of his evaluation of the two players yet.