Cody Ross Enjoying Good Health -- Finally

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b>-- There is almost always a smile on the face beneath the shaved head of Cody Ross these days. And why not? He's healthy for the first time in awhile and what's more, he's playing well.

Editors Note--Just as this story was to be posted, Ross crashed into the Baltimore catcher Wednesday afteroon attempting to score from second base on a single and suffered a lacerated knee that required stitches. His shin was bruised and results of precautionary X-rays and MRIs were not immediately known.

Ross' record over the past two seasons reads almost as much as a page from The New England Journal of Medicine as it does from, say, Baseball America. He's had three severe injuries in the span of a year, yet he keeps battling through.

The first such mishap occurred when he was called up by the Detroit Tigers in September 2003. As he relates, "I had hit a grand slam early in the game, then I doubled off the wall. The next time up, they asked me to bunt. I laid one down the first base line. The first baseman fielded and lunged at me to make the tag. I dodged around him, hit the bag wrong and I felt something snap."

It was the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee so that was it for Cody for the rest of the season. As it turns out, that was pretty much it for him and the Tigers because they traded him to the Dodgers toward the end of spring training 2004 for reliever Steve Colyer.

Leg problems continued to beset Ross at the start of 2005 but he made his way into the lineup and started hitting well. Then a broken bone in his arm sidelined him for a second time. When he came back, he wasn't hitting all that much so General Manager Paul DePodesta called him to assure him of the team's continued regard for him.

Cody quickly got hot and was bashing the ball with regularity. As the end of August approached he knew that he was on the list for a September call-up. But fickle fate, in the form of an errant pitch struck his wrist so he spent last September recovering rather than up with the big club.

Now? "I'm fine and hoping to show that I can help," he says. So far, this spring the 24-year-old from Carlsbad, New Mexico, has produced consistently both at the plate and in the field, impressing with his all-out style of play.

That's always been the Ross modus operandi. He's not big (5-11, 180) but he can drive the ball as witness his 14 home runs in the 60 games he did get to play for Las Vegas last season. He's considered an overachiever by some but the bottom line is that he's achieved everywhere he's been since being drafted in the fourth round by Detroit in 1999.

The contest for the extra outfield slots is heated. Ricky Ledee seems to be assured of one and Jason Grabowski brings a year of big league experience. What's more, Jason Repko and Chin Feng Chen, other combatants for a slot, have looked good also. So, for that matter, has non-roster entry Tydus Meadows.

But no one's ignoring Cody, either. As he's proved, he 's been down a few times but never out of it for long.