When the Red Sox played Terry Francona’s Indians in Cleveland from April 16-18, slugger David Ortiz was still in the final stages of his Minor League rehab.
On Thursday night at Fenway, Ortiz will stand in the batters box against Francona for the first time since they parted ways at the end of the 2011 season.
“I mean, yeah, it’s definitely going to bring memories back,” Ortiz said. “I was with Tito for eight years. He’s a good dude. He did a lot of good things. I learned a lot of things from him. It’s going to be a little weird just watching him from the other side. It is what it is, right?”
Ortiz and Francona experienced a lot of success together, winning two World Series championships together, most memorably the one in 2004 that included the comeback from 3-0 down in the best-of-seven ALCS against the Yankees.
“It was weird watching him on ESPN at the beginning until you get used to it,” Ortiz said. “So now you watch him on the other side and it will feel weird for a couple of series. At some point, it will be pretty normal.”
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been hitting at a torrid pace since coming off the disabled list. This, even as he deals with a personal matter.
Ortiz and his wife Tiffany are filing for a divorce. The couple has been married for nearly a decade after meeting when Ortiz was in the Minor Leagues.
“There are some situations in life that work out for a period of time and at some point they don’t work out anymore and you have to move on,” Ortiz said in an interview with MLB.com and WEEI.com. “I’m moving on. She’s moving on. Hopefully everybody respects that.”
While Ortiz wanted to release the news before it leaked out, he hopes the public will respect his family’s privacy in the ensuing weeks.
The one thing Ortiz hopes nobody will do is try to look for a connection between his marriage ending and his performance on the field.
“I’m going to separate things,” Ortiz said. “Whatever is happening to me off the field is happening, but I try not to confuse that and bring that into my job. I know how to separate things. Personal life matters, and hopefully everybody respects that.”
The couple raised three children together, daughters Jessica and Alexandra, and son D’Angelo, who remains a constant presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.
Ortiz wanted to emphasize that the separation has been amicable, and that both sides want to move forward with their lives.
In Sunday’s win over the Astros, Ortiz went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Over eight games, he is hitting .516 with two homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.400 OPS.
Jose Iglesias will get the thrill of playing in Monday’s home opener, as Stephen Drew will need an extra day at Double-A Portland thanks to a postponement on Saturday.
Drew, who sustained a concussion on March 7, will make his debut for the Red Sox on Wednesday.
“I think just talking with him late yesterday afternoon, he felt an additional eight to 10 at-bats would be helpful,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s starting to feel much more comfortable but he felt like two additional games, to go nine innings each day, would put him in a better position to return to us.”
Meanwhile, Iglesias was back in the lineup on Sunday after missing Saturday’s game with a bruised right forearm.
“Yeah, and even yesterday, he was available yesterday but we had planned a down day for him, day game after the night game, just trying to balance guys’ not being accustomed to the turf here, which is the same reason Napoli is DH-ing today with Daniel at first. Jose is fully ready to go,” said Farrell.
David Ortiz will be on a plane to Florida on Thursday to continue his rehab there, and could be playing in extended Spring Training games by the beginning of next week.
An official Minor League rehab assignment might not be too far behind. In fact, it’s starting to sound as if Ortiz could play for the Red Sox in April.
“In talking with David, I think he’d feel comfortable with 25, 30 at-bats, likely to be taken place at Pawtucket,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When that rehab assignment begins remains to be seen. We’re still hopeful of a target timeframe of sometime middle to third week of April.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Drew played in an extended Spring Training for the second day in a row and will play at Double-A Portland tomorrow. Drew could play for Boston in the Fenway Park Opener on Monday.
Jon Lester might have had a down year in 2012, but the Red Sox still view him as an ace. And that’s why the lefty will take the ball at Yankee Stadium on Monday for Opening Day.
After weeks of speculation, manager John Farrell finally made it official on Wednesday morning. Lester will be Boston’s first pitcher out of the gate for the third consecutive season.
The news was revealed just hours before Lester got ready to make his final start of Spring Training against the Miami Marlins.
“The way he was lined up, he was probably targeted all along,” said Farrell. “At the same time, we didn’t want that to be a focal point. His work that was needed and the adjustments that he’s continued to reinforce and repeat on the mound were the priorities. We felt like it was important to focus on the needs of Spring Training for every pitcher, including Jon, before we got into the rotation [order].”
In his first five starts of Grapefruit League action, Lester went 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, looking a lot more like the pitcher who dominated in 2008-11 than the one who stumbled last year.
“He’s gotten back to a delivery that was similar to what he had in the past,” Farrell said. “I think he’s executing pitches with the consistency we saw before that made him one of the top left-handers in the game. He’s had a very strong Spring Training. “
Right-handers Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster will follow Lester in New York, pitching Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Left-hander Felix Doubront and righty John Lackey will round out the rotation, pitching the first two games in Toronto.
Buchholz is on tap to pitch the Home Opener on April 8 against the Orioles.
Lester was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts in 2012.
“I didn’t really like what happened last year as far as me and the way I pitched,” Lester said earlier this spring. “That’s solely on me – that’s not on anyone else, that’s not on the revolving door of pitching coaches, that’s not on our manager, that’s not on anybody but myself. I want to prove that last year was a fluke and it’s not going to happen again.”
The Red Sox will have some decisions to make early next week when it comes to some of their veterans who are on the bubble.
Lyle Overbay, who is competing to be the backup first baseman, has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can activate on Tuesday. Outfielder Ryan Sweeny can become a free agent on Thursday. Both those players might exercise their rights to become free agents if they don’t have assurances they will make the team.
“We certainly try to communicate with everyone as respectfully and professionally as we can, as we get close to those decisions,” said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. “Of course, they’re not all on the same day. We’ll have plenty of conversation between now and next week. But right now, there’s baseball still to be played in Spring Training. We’ve got to keep watching.”
With David Ortiz not making the progress he had hoped with his right Achilles injury, the Red Sox sent the slugger out for a precautionary MRI on Saturday. The team should have the results later today. Interestingly, Ortiz had images on both heels.
He hasn’t been ruled out for Opening Day yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it eventually heads in that direction.
“He’s undergone an MRI on both his heels and that’s where he’s been feeling the discomfort,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It hasn’t been in that right Achilles specifically, it’s been overall in both heels. Just to rule everything out, he’s undergone that imaging here today. I think the one thing that we still hold in all this is that while the timing might not be what was maybe initially expected, the bigger picture is he’s still making progress. He’s been able to run the bases – as we know – on the days that he has. He’s been taking BP every single day. There’s progress, yet, maybe not as fast as he might have anticipated or hoped. Like I said, we’re ruling everything out but at the same time we acknowledge that there’s progress being made.”
When would the Red Sox officially rule Ortiz out for Opening Day?
“Well, we’ll see how this week goes,” Farrell said. “We don’t have a date earmarked. Our goal is to have David in our lineup for the greatest number of games that we can throughout the course of the year. It’s not like April 1 is a drop-dead date for an entire season. We’re not going to rush to any decision where we’re saying, you know what, Opening Day is out.
The Red Sox will only start examining alternative plans for the lineup once they know for sure Ortiz will start the season late. Could there be an option in which Jackie Bradley, Jr. starts the season on the active roster, with an outfielder — say Jonny Gomes – serving as the DH?
“That discussion is yet to be had. Regardless of who would fill out the 25-man roster, you know what, I can’t sit here today and say that’s not an option that wouldn’t be discussed. Keep in mind that we fully expect Jackie to begin the season in the Minor Leagues. So we’ll see – we’ll work through the combinations that exist here in camp and, again, we haven’t ruled out David either.”
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took another encouraging step forward in his recovery on Monday, running the bases. Ortiz went home to first a few times, first to third a couple of times, and second to home.
“I ran today better than the last time I ran,” Ortiz said. “Everybody was pretty happy about it. I’m happy about it because nothing bothers me when I was running. That’s a plus. That is telling me that I’m going in the right direction, you know what I’m saying?”
Ortiz is confident he will be in the lineup when the Red Sox open their season at Yankee Stadium on April 1.
“Oh, I want to play way before that, you know what I’m saying? Of course, that’s why we’re doing all this stuff so I’m good to go for Opening Day,” Ortiz said. “The main goal right now is to make sure I get to play down here. If I play down here, that means I’m good to go, you know what I’m saying?”
After leaving camp for a couple of days for a personal reason, slugger David Ortiz was back to work on Saturday. In fact, manager John Farrell said that today is the start of the next level in Ortiz’s rehab program — he will do all baseball activities. Ortiz, who is coming off a of a right Achilles injury, had been spending a lot of his time doing agility work.
Today will mark the second time Ortiz has run the bases. He also ran on Wednesday before his temporary leave from camp. Manager John Farrell estimates that the slugger will play in his first Grapefruit League game “at the end of this upcoming week”.
With Mike Napoli returning last night, that means the Red Sox can finally play with their full lineup, minus Shane Victorino, who will be at the World Baseball Classic.
In other news, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will sit out today with lower back stiffness. He seems to get that a couple of times a year — probably just the nature of being a catcher.
Daniel Bard will have a side day today, and then throw in a game on Monday.
Victorino will lead off today in a 1:05 p.m. road game against the Twins and then fly to Arizona tomorrow to join Team USA.
All eyes were on the new first baseman tonight. After weeks — in fact months — of hearing about Mike Napoli’s hips, he played a game for the Red Sox tonight against the Pirates.
And of course, he got tested on the very first pitch of the game. The Pirates’ Darren Ford dropped a hard bunt to first base. Napoli grabbed it and raced to the bag, where he beat Ford on a bang-bang play.
Then he got to bat in the first inning, and Napoli scalded a single off of the foot of Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke. Stephen Drew ripped a double, and Napoli looked comfortable going first to third. Napoli then scored on a wild pitch.
He was again tested on defense in the second. Pedro Alvarez hit a grounder to Napoli, and he made the flip to Jon Lester for the out. Napoli then made a catch on a foul ball by Brandon Inge just in front of the visitors’ dugout. Napoli made a few more routine plays on defense, and struck out in his second at-bat. When the Red Sox came out for defense to start the fifth inning, Napoli was replaced by Lyle Overbay at first.
It was a solid first impression.
The Red Sox had high hopes for Napoli when they originally agreed to terms on a three-year, $39-million pact back in December. Though the contract is now just for one year, the club remains confident that Napoli can be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup.
“Well he’s passed all the tests that we’ve put him through,” said manager John Farrell. “There’s been no restrictions. Even when he was taking BP in the offseason, it was apparent that his lower half was free and we’re looking forward to getting him into the flow of things starting tonight.”
Napoli maintains that he is symptom free from the hip condition — avascluar neucrosis — he was diagnosed with. And he vowed not to be thinking about it when he is on the field.
“Just play the game,” Napoli said. “That’s the best way to go at it. That’s the way I’ve always done it. I’m just going to play the game and let things happen. When you start worrying about things like, ‘I can’t slide, I shouldn’t slide,’ that’s when you get in between and hurt yourself.”
As for the transition to first base after serving as a primary catcher for all of his career until now?
“I feel a lot more comfortable over there, especially turning the double play, where my feet should be, where I should be taking the ball and receiving the ball,” said Napoli. “It’s been going [well].”