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David Ross: 'I want to win in Chicago'

CHICAGO -- New Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross wants everyone to know he signed on for one reason and one reason only.

"I want to win in Chicago," Ross stated in a phone interview on Wednesday. "I'm not playing for the Hall of Fame. I promise you that. I've made enough money and made some great relationships. I want to win. That's the goal for everyone that’s coming there."

Likewise, the Cubs might have signed Ross to a two-year deal for $5 million via agent Ryan Gleichowski for one reason: provide leadership for one of the youngest teams in baseball.

It doesn't hurt Ross has been new ace Jon Lester's personal catcher for the past couple of seasons. While you might think they were a package deal, it wasn't that simple for either side.

"We tried to separate them," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "We liked Ross as an individual. It wasn't entirely tied to Jon. Beyond Jon, [Ross] can help out the clubhouse, help the culture, but obviously, there was a connection."

Ross had other suitors, including the San Diego Padres and his old team, the Boston Red Sox. While signing Lester might guarantee Ross some extra playing time, it meant something else to him.

"They were able to be a little more aggressive with me when Lester got there," he explained. "For me, it showed a commitment to winning. It was step No. 1, getting a horse like that. It showed a commitment and not just about developing players.

"It was the plan set forth through Jed and [team president] Theo [Epstein]. From Day 1 of the offseason, they were recruiting me. Obviously, Lester helps. Some familiarity with that. [Manager] Joe Maddon being there was a game-changer for me as a veteran -- going to an established manager who has a reputation for being laid back and being a player's manager."

Though the Cubs' brass was familiar with Ross from his Red Sox days, they did their homework on him, calling on some of his past teams over his 13-year career. Ross also did homework. Former Cubs Ryan Dempster and Mark DeRosa explained to him what it was like to play for a winning Cubs team in Chicago. Ross is familiar with that vibe.

"Coming from one of the greatest places I've ever played in Boston, there were a lot of similarities," he said. "When you're talking about a guy like me on the back end of my career, winning in 2013 [with the Red Sox], I realized how great that is, how great that adventure is. What a feeling that is.

"When you get a chance to win a World Series in a big city, there's no better feeling than to have that city behind you when you take the field. None. I want that again in Chicago."

So what is it about a 37-year-old catcher and career .233 hitter with 95 home runs that the Cubs are willing to say goodbye to a decent catcher who is a decade younger? Ross is pushing Welington Castillo out the door.

For one thing, Ross is still a solid receiver. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he ranked fifth among all regular or semi-regular catchers in getting extra calls per game by the plate umpire. That will help, but he wasn't signed for his pitch framing. The Cubs have said all offseason they need locker room leaders.

"He has a great reputation," Hoyer said. "People talk about him as a future manager."

Ross offered up his expectations.

"Just be a teammate," he said. "A teammate isn't just somebody that's on your team. A teammate is family. Every team I've been on I consider my teammates like family. I love them all like a brother, and I treat them like one: Sometimes I'm going to be nice, and sometimes I'm going to be a jerk.

"Everyone's grind is a little different. My talent is not the same as some guys. I have to work on the little things. What I bring to the table is a different mental side than some veterans."

"I'm not about overworking," Ross continued. "You need to get your work in, but you don't need to be hitting at 4 a.m. getting ready for a day game."

That last sentiment could have come right from Maddon's mouth, because it's also the manager's philosophy not to overwork. You get the feeling Ross is going to be another coach in the locker room and on the field. He knows a few Cubs, including hitting coach Eric Hinske, and he shares the same representation with Anthony Rizzo. But he also knows he's the new guy, along with the other few additions. and he likes it that way.

"I like to have a clean slate and get to know each guy," Ross said. "And watch. I like to watch new guys play. I saw the talent level when [the Cubs] swept us in Boston [in July], and those young arms in the bullpen were good."

As for Ross and Lester, Hoyer says don't necessarily count on Ross solely catching the lefty or Miguel Montero only catching the other four starters.

"Jon and him have had a lot of success together, so that's a natural pairing. But I think it's dangerous to have a guy as someone's individual catcher, because if someone gets hurt, now you have a lack of familiarity with the other guy," Hoyer explained. "I think both guys will catch Jon, but the breakdown will be up to Joe [Maddon]."

Ross said Lester has a cut fastball that is a "separator" and can throw it "front or back door" to both righties and lefties.

"His mentality and the way he works is second to none," Ross said. "He'll make everyone on that team better."

Coming to the National League can only help Lester, but Ross warns that thinking it will be easier will be a mistake.

"Yeah, you get to take the David Ortizes out of the lineup. That helps a lot," he stated. "But if you go into that mindset that this is going to be easier, you'll get your lunch handed to you."

With Lester and Ross, the Cubs have World Series experience. That's not a phrase used to describe Cubs players often, but the hope is they'll be the leaders of a new era of winning in Chicago. And that's when a fun summer could be at hand.

"The one thing I would say having won a World Series -- that's the only reason I play the game now," Ross said. "I want that in Chicago."