PHOENIX — It might just be coincidence, but the timing of Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross fixing a persistent vision problem and hitting a game-winning home run was just uncanny.
Ross hit a pinch-hit three-run home run in the eighth inning of the D-backs’ 3-1 win over the Marlins on Wednesday, a day after he made a trip to his eye doctor to get a long-running issue with his contact lenses straightened out.
“I’ve been struggling with my vision lately,” Ross said after the game. “To be honest with you, I was going up there with blurry vision half the time I was at the plate. It’s hard enough to hit in this league when you have good vision, as opposed to going up with blurry vision.
“You don’t want to make excuses, but it’s a true story.”
Ross said the type of contact lens he had been using was irritating and drying out his eyes and had been for much all season. It’s possible the contact lens issue played a part in Ross’s limited production. Wednesday’s home run broke an 0-for-14 slump and lifted his season average to .257 with 20 RBI, three home runs and a .671 OPS.
It’s also possible Ross got off to a slow start because of a calf injury suffered midway through spring training that sidelined him until mid-April. Either way, it’s safe to say a major league baseball player with blurry vision is going to struggle some.
Ross said he would use almost an entire small bottle of eye drops during games, but his eyes wouldn’t retain the moisture.
“I’m up there rubbing my eyes trying to get some clarity,” Ross said. “Hopefully we’ve resolved that.”
Why Ross didn’t have the lenses checked out sooner is unclear, but Monday’s game provided the last push he needed to do something about it.
In the D-backs’ 3-2 loss, the eye irritation was enough of a distraction during a fifth-inning at-bat that he lost track of the count. When ball four arrived, Ross didn’t go to first base, instead preparing for the next pitch before being told that he had walked.
“Everybody in the place knew it was ball four except me,” Ross said.
The distraction got Ross to make an early morning appointment on Tuesday. He spent three hours trying on new lenses and figuring out effective eye drops. If his pinch-hit at-bat Wednesday was any indication, it was a productive use of time.
Ross wasn’t D-backs manager Kirk Gibson’s first choice as a pinch-hitter in the eighth against Miami starter Jose Fernandez, but Marlins manager Mike Redmond brought in left-handed reliever Mike Dunn to face D-backs pinch hitter Eric Hinske. That change prompted Gibson to counter with Ross, who was hitting .377 against lefties.
“Cody’s much better on lefties, always has been,” Gibson said. “This year it’s considerable.”
Ross’s home run to deep left-center field overshadowed a stellar relief outing from Josh Collmenter, who threw six scoreless innings in relief of starter Trevor Cahill, who left in the second inning after being hit in the hip by a line drive.
“That’s just a great performance,” Gibson said. “He had a magic wand out there, and he got rolling.”
Ross ensured Collmenter’s effort did not go for naught.
No one can say for sure if it would have happened without Ross’s trip to the eye doctor. What could be more telling is if Ross starts hitting more like the player the D-backs expected when they signed him to a three-year deal this past offseason.