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Pirates acquire catcher Ross from L.A. |

Pirates acquire catcher Ross from L.A.

| Thursday, March 31, 2005 12:00 a.m

BRADENTON, Fla. — Unwanted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, David Ross has found a new home with the Pirates. The only thing Ross doesn’t know is whether he’ll unpack his bags in Pittsburgh or Indianapolis.

Ross, a 28-year-old right-handed hitting catcher, was acquired Wednesday in a $75,000 transaction as insurance for backup Humberto Cota, who may begin the season on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

If Cota is healthy, Ross will start the season at Class AAA Indianapolis, where he’ll team up with prospect Ryan Doumit.

The uncertainty is nothing compared to what Ross was experiencing with the Dodgers, who had squeezed him out of a job.

Since the end of last season, the Dodgers have acquired Jason Phillips, Paul Bako and Dioner Navarro. With Bako and Phillips assured of spots on the parent club, and Navarro and Mike Rose playing at Class AAA Las Vegas, Ross had no future wearing Dodger Blue. The Dodgers began actively shopping him about 10 days ago after Phillips was acquired from the New York Mets.

Ross will make $338,500 with the Pirates and $249,000 at Indianapolis.

“I’m very happy about the situation,” Ross said. “Obviously, these guys wanted me. I know the Dodgers had a couple of options, and I’m happy to be over here. I know some of the guys on this team, and it’s a younger team with guys around my age. I think I’ll fit in real well here.”

Ross was the Dodgers’ seventh-round pick in 1998 out of the University of Florida, where he played with Josh Fogg on a team that reached the College World Series.

In 118 career games with the Dodgers, Ross batted .207, but displayed flashes of power with 16 homers and 35 RBI. He also has struck out 108 times in 299 at-bats.

This spring, he started out 0 for 17 and had two hits in 19 at-bats with one homer and two RBI.

“With some of the concerns we had with Cota, this adds to our catching depth,” Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said.

Informed of the trade yesterday morning, Ross packed his bags and drove three hours across Florida, arriving at McKechnie Field shortly after the Pirates’ game against the Minnesota Twins. He took his physical and was assigned uniform No. 6.

Ross spent his first full season in the majors with the Dodgers last year, but batted only .170 with five homers and 15 RBI in 70 games. He became the starter after Paul Lo Duca was sent to the Florida Marlins at the trading deadline.

“I was really pressing and trying to get three hits in every at-bat,” Ross said. “Hopefully, here I’ll feel more relaxed around guys who want me here. I’m excited.”

Cota hurt his left side in the second inning Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies while blocking a pitch. Later, he suffered a contusion on his right forearm. Still, he hit two homers in the game.

The injury is similar to the one that sidelined Cota for two months last season. As a precaution, Cota said he won’t start swinging a bat again until Saturday, which may be too late to avoid a trip to the disabled list.

“I don’t want to aggravate the thing,” Cota said. “I kept playing last year and it hurt me. I’m able to swing the bat, I’m able to catch, but I did the same thing last year and it cost me two months. I want to be ready for this year.”

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