Papi determined to get healthy for long haul
Red Sox slugger acknowledges Opening Day vs. Yankees no longer realistic
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With the goal of being in the Red Sox's Opening Day lineup no longer a realistic one, David Ortiz has set a new mission for himself: Get healthy and stay healthy.
After a weekend MRI showed that inflammation in Ortiz's right heel is the reason for his recurring soreness, the Sox slugger is now dealing with the reality that he won't do any baseball activities for most of the week -- if not all of it.
"Like I said, it is what it is and things happen for a reason, right? The one thing that we're really working on is that when I'm back, I'm back," said Ortiz. "It's not just coming back for a couple of weeks and then going back and doing the same thing. They're trying to fix the whole thing. That way when I get back in the lineup, it's going to be there, and be there for the season."
The Red Sox can withstand the loss of Ortiz for days or weeks, but probably not months. And that's why the latest diagnosis wasn't the worst news in the world.
The Achilles tendon Ortiz injured last July has not suffered a setback. Instead, Ortiz is dealing with the type of soreness that is not all that unexpected considering how many months he was forced to be inactive.
"I knew it was something, it was not normal. I was getting pain four or five hours after I was finished with my workout and I knew something wasn't right," Ortiz said. "We had that communication between me and the doctors, the trainers. They agreed with getting an MRI just so we could see what was going on. It's not anything crazy, thank God, but it's going to take a couple of weeks to get fixed."
Typically known for his gregarious personality, Ortiz's frustration has been evident this spring.
"Yeah, it's not a good feeling," Ortiz said. "I've been working really hard this offseason just to make sure I'm good to go for the season, and this happened. [I just haven't been] me. I know you guys have noticed that."
For Ortiz, it was only human nature for there to be some deflation after his original goal went by the wayside.
"Well, Opening Day was my goal. You guys heard me talking about it when I first got here," Ortiz said. "I was feeling good and pushing things the way I was being told. Right now, Opening Day seems like it's not the case. The case is [to] get me healthy for five or five and a half good months. That's what we're looking for now."
This will be an unglamorous few days for Ortiz. He will take anti-inflammatories and basically be confined to the trainer's room.
"We're humans. Nobody wants to be injured," Ortiz said. "Me, I was going 120 percent this offseason working with this injury, and the good news is it had nothing to do with my Achilles like it used to. That made me happy at least, knowing that my Achilles is doing fine."
In the coming days, manager John Farrell gets to dive into one of the less fun parts of his job. Figuring out how to replace Ortiz's bat during the time he is out.
"It's safe to say we don't have another David Ortiz waiting to occupy that slot," said Farrell. "What the best match-ups are, that's where we'll have to continue to look at. How we balance Mike Napoli playing every day [at first base], that will be another thing factored in. Right now, everything projects where [Napoli] would be fine, but we've also got to consider that.
"I think you're always having some contingencies no matter what position. That's part of the overall internal discussions that take place. As it relates to David, depending on where we are over the next week to 10 days to two weeks, we'll consider all the options internally right now."
The Red Sox have a log-jam of players trying to earn spots on the bench, including Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney, Mike Carp and Lyle Overbay. Those are some of the players who could see more at-bats while Ortiz is out of the mix. A more remote possibility is that top prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. could start the season on the active roster to help fill the void.
In the meantime, Ortiz will focus solely on trying to be there for his team for as many games as possible this season.
"Hopefully," said Ortiz. "That's something that they are expecting. I'm expecting it. I want to play where I don't have to worry about that anymore. I have to focus on doing what I have to do on the baseball field."
Ortiz looks forward to the day when the focus shifts to his big bat again, instead of his balky right heel.