PAWTUCKET â€” What David Ortiz is attempting to do is adhere to spring-training protocol.
The question is, will the Red Sox slugger be able to get everything ironed out over eight or so at-bats in the coming days with the Pawtucket Red Sox? In 2010, Ortiz received 62 at-bats in spring training and equaled the total the following year. In 2012, he collected 57 Grapefruit League at-bats.
In a discipline that swears by the belief that timing is everything, Ortiz admitted following Tuesdayâ€™s matinee contest at McCoy Stadium â€“ Lehigh Valley won its second straight over Pawtucket by an 8-6 count â€“ that time is of the utmost essence. If he doesnâ€™t experience any further setbacks with his injured heel/Achilles tendon, then expect to see him in Bostonâ€™s lineup for Fridayâ€™s game at Fenway Park against Kansas City.
Translation: Wednesday and Thursday are pretty big for the individual commonly known as Big Papi.
â€śThis is where experience and what Iâ€™ve learned over the years kicks in,â€ť Ortiz noted. â€śIâ€™ve got to put it in play.â€ť
Ortiz did not succeed on that front Tuesday, going hitless in four at-bats while seeing a total of 13 pitches. Heâ€™s now 3-for-11 in three rehab games with the PawSox. Originally, the Red Sox expressed that they wanted Ortiz to receive in the neighborhood of 25-30 at-bats before activating him. Given that the player is shooting for a Friday return, achieving such a total appears unlikely.
â€śI havenâ€™t played in the last eight months. Iâ€™m going to make an adjustment the more I see pitches," Ortiz said. â€śYou walk into a funk even when you're good to go. As a major-league player, you make adjustments and you get to the point where you want to be playing.â€ť
He certainly looked the part of a ballplayer that was seeing live pitching for the first time in three days â€“ Ortiz missed Sundayâ€™s PawSox game with a sinus infection and did not play Monday after experiencing soreness in his left heel.
He got ahead 2-0 on his first at-bat before swinging and missing on a changeup. With the count full, Ortiz let it rip and came up empty. The pitch from Lehigh Valley starter Jonathan Pettibone appeared to be a fastball, though the radar gun at McCoy Stadium wasnâ€™t on at that particular moment.
Ortizâ€™s second turn saw him fall behind before unleashing a moonshot fly-out to left field. He grounded to first base on the second pitch of his third at-bat. His fourth and final at-bat featured a chopper to the left side that resulted in a double play.
Thanks to his vantage point, Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina agreed with the media when asked about the Boston starâ€™s timing appearing slightly askew.
â€śBefore he missed those two days, he looked pretty good,â€ť said DiSarcina. â€śI kind of equate what heâ€™s going through now with spring training. Thinking back, if you missed two days in camp, youâ€™re missing a lot.â€ť
Ortiz appeared to get out of the batterâ€™s box with no hesitation. Prior to Tuesdayâ€™s game, he talked about getting scratched as a precaution shortly before first pitch Monday night.
â€śThe trainers weren't worried about it. They thought it was something minor they needed to work on to loosen up. They told me pretty much not to worry about," Ortiz said. "They worked on it, and today I feel better. As long as itâ€™s not in the right leg, it'll be fine. That's what they basically told me."
Prior to departing, Ortiz told Dan Dyrek, Bostonâ€™s coordinator of sports medicine service, that he would see him again Wednesday at McCoy Stadium. Itâ€™s worth mentioning that Ortiz has yet to play on consecutive days for the PawSox. With Friday serving as the target date, it would appear imperative that his quest to return to the Red Sox is devoid of any further interruptions.
â€śI feel fine (Tuesday),â€ť said Ortiz. â€śHopefully (Wednesday) will be a good day and just go at it.â€ť
Taking an opportunity to divert attention away from his own well being, Ortiz spoke out about the unfortunate circumstances that marred the Boston Marathon.
â€śIt was a tough day for anyone whoâ€™s related to Boston. My phone was blowing up from people back home calling me â€¦ it made me sick to my stomach, I got very emotional,â€ť he said. â€śWhy would people do things like that?
â€śSome (expletive) comes out and does something like that, itâ€™s not fair,â€ť he added. â€śThis country has given me and my family an opportunity to be who I am. To see something like this happen, you just hope everyone is fine.â€ť
As for the actual game between the white lines, Lehigh Valley was buoyed by a pair of three-run home runs. The IronPigs wound up blasting three round trippers as PawSox starter Chris Hernandez was touched for seven runs â€“ three earned â€“ in five innings.
One of the home runs that Hernandez allowed was a result of a two-out error that prolonged the frame. From Pawtucketâ€™s standpoint, good news could be rooted in the two scoreless innings reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith tossed and newcomer Mitch Maier going 3-for-3 with two runs.
The four-game series continues Wednesday with Terry Doyle getting the nod for Pawtucket.