Gload comfortable with bench role
Veteran pinch-hitter eager to contribute with bat, in field
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ross Gload promises his family has converted.
Gload, who the Phillies signed to a two-year, $2.6 million contract in December, was born in Brooklyn and grew up in East Hampton on Long Island. He grew up dreaming of becoming the next Keith Hernandez or Darryl Strawberry.
He grew up a Mets fan.
But once he signed his contract with Philadelphia, he quickly bought his mom a Phillies jersey with his name and number on the back.
"Everyone is excited," said Gload, who went 3-for-5 in Sunday's 5-3 loss in 10 innings to the Rays at Bright House Field. "They flip on the player and not the team. I think there are a lot more Phillies fans in East Hampton now. We might have a few more Phillies fans at Citi Field."
Gload, 34, essentially has replaced Matt Stairs on the Phils' bench. Gload is a career .283 hitter, and hit .261 with six home runs and 30 RBIs last season with the Marlins. He led the Majors with 21 pinch-hits and tied for the lead with 15 pinch-hit RBIs.
"We've got two pretty good left-handed hitters on our bench with Gload and [Greg] Dobbs," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Gload can play both corner outfield positions, although he is regarded as a very good first baseman.
"I don't expect to play much at first," he said. "Before I signed I made sure to check to see [Ryan Howard] played 160 games last year. That's fine. I know the role. I know why I was brought over here. I'm never going to be standing outside Charlie's door when Howard has 46 homers and ask why I don't get to play more. I don't really care. I just want to be part of the team and do my job. That's what I did last year."
That is what he has done throughout his career. Gload is a role player, but he has made a nice career out of it.
"I made the joke last year that growing up in New York, I didn't dream of being a utility player/pinch-hitter," he said. "My favorite players weren't those types of guys. You don't dream of getting the game-winning pinch-hit."
The Marlins drafted Gload in the 13th round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, and has had a crazy ride since. He got traded to the Cubs on July 31, 2000. The Rockies claimed him off waivers Sept. 12, 2001. The Rockies traded him to the Mets on Jan. 22, 2002, and the Mets traded him back to the Rockies four days later.
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Gload landed with the White Sox on March 31, 2003, and that is where he started to produce. He hit .321 in 110 games for the Sox in '04. Injuries sidelined him much of '05, but he hit .327 in '06 before he got traded to the Royals on Dec. 16, 2007. He played two seasons in Kansas City before he was dealt to the Marlins on April 1, 2009.
Gload has been traded six times in a little less than nine years, but he finally had some say this offseason as a free agent.
"Honestly, they showed the most interest," Gload said of the Phillies. "I wanted to go back to the Marlins, because you want to stay where you're familiar, and I love the coaches, but we just couldn't work it out. [On] Day 1 of free agency, a couple teams contacted me, but the Phillies were in the there. But as we went on, they showed the most interest.
"Being such a good team and the direction they're going in, I was in a way kind of honored after being told for so many years that I'm never going to play in the big leagues, that the first day of free agency, the team that's been on top the last couple years in the National League called me. I've been a guy that's been waived, traded, designated, I think I've made myself a pretty good ballplayer. So to have them call was great."
Manuel said he likes what he has seen so far from Gload. He said he will have him play the corner outfield positions this spring, which is where he seems most likely to play once the season starts.
Gload learned to play outfield out of necessity.
"I basically played the position where there wasn't a prospect," he said. "If the prospect was in left, I played right. If he was in right, I played left. I never played the outfield every day. I'm more comfortable at first. I'm comfortable enough in the outfield."
Gload is comfortable coming off the bench to hit, which is what the Phils need in the late innings.
"You need the big guys, but it also takes 25 guys on a day in the middle of summer when the big guys have played 35 games in a row, there's a doubleheader, there's a day game coming up the next day when it's hot, that's usually the day we play," he said. "Like I said, nobody wants to be the pinch-hitter, but if that's my job and I can do it well, that's fine."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.