Despite numbers, Ortiz knows age is catching up

Despite numbers, Ortiz knows age is catching up
July 16, 2013, 8:45 pm
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NEW YORK -- At the age of 37, David Ortiz finished the first half of the season with the third-highest OPS of any player in the American League.
     
Despite missing the first 2 1/2 weeks, he leads the Red Sox in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage. His numbers project to the kind of season he had in his late 20's.
     
Across the American League All-Star visitor's clubhouse, Ortiz watches Mariano Rivera, 43, dominate as he always has in this, his final season.
     
All of which might be enough for Ortiz to re-consider his stance that the two-year contract he signed with the Red Sox would be his last.
     
Might.
      
"I don't know," said Ortiz. "I haven't really sat down and thought about it. I have fun doing what I do, but I don't really see myself just sitting around and not being able to do what I do."
     
But Ortiz understands that projecting too far ahead can be dangerous business. At the All-Star break exactly a year ago, Ortiz couldn't have forecast that, in a matter of weeks, he would suffer an Achilles injury that would put his career in jeopardy.
     
And to listen to him, rather than thinking he can play indefinitely, it's as if Ortiz can hear his professional clock ticking.
     
"We don't know about the future," said Ortiz. "You saw what happened to me last year. To be honest with you, I worked really hard this past off-season to maintain myself, to be where I'm at right now. It's hard to do it, though. I'm not going to lie to you.
     
"When you're younger, it's easier to do things. At this stage, your body asks you for more. And one day, you wake up and you say, 'Hey, you know what, I can't keep up with this anymore. Hopefully that's not the case for me, because I like what I do. But the injury last year, that's something I had no control over.
     
"I'm fine to play right now. But it's not like I used to be."
     
Ortiz isn't talking here about performance or his level of play. He's speaking of his body -- the demands it makes to continue to compete at an elite level, the pain it experiences on a daily basis, the length of time it requires to recover.
     
"I still get sore," he said. "I still have pain. I've got to take anti-inflammatory (medication) to keep up. I've got to keep on getting treatment and therapy every day. And those are things that, at some point, you know what, your body can't do this anymore.
     
"Now, is that going to happen at the end of this year or next year or the following year? I don't know. I'm fine with what I'm doing right now. I'm competing, I'm giving my best. I hope it continues. I hope it continues for the next four years. But I don't think that's going to happen. We'll see. I don't like to get ahead of things, because you don't know what the future is going to be like."
     
Always, Ortiz thinks about his Achilles, which cost him most of the final two months and lingered into this past spring and the first half of April.
     
"It's not like I forgot about it already," said Ortiz. "I know it's still hanging around and I've got to be careful with it. I've got to get treatment every day. It's a pain in the ass to do every day, but I have to do it because I want to help this ballclub win games."
     
Ortiz also revealed that the plan originally called for him to get a day off this season "every three or four days," to protect the Achilles.
     
"(The Red Sox) want me to," said Ortiz. "But I feel like when I'm not in the lineup, there's a big hole. I prefer to take the risk and be out there helping my teammates. John (Farrell) has been great about it; he comes and asks me all the time (if I'm OK). But he knows I like to be out there."
     
Heel aside, Ortiz knows there have to be concessions to his age.
     
"You feel like you can't get to the ball sometimes," said Ortiz. "So you need to start adding exercises so you can rotate well and this and that. When you're younger, that doesn't happen. You just show up and hit."