FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the Red Sox shut down David Ortiz last week to rest his ailing heels, the team hoped the slugger would be ready to begin taking batting practice again today. That did not happen, and there is no schedule for it yet.
Manager John Farrell was asked if the team was concerned that Ortiz had gone the prescribed 5-7 days of rest with no appreciable improvement.
"Concern from the standpoint that it may be a couple of more days than originally thought or projected," he said. "When he was shut down, there was that 5-7 day period where we were going to take a look and see how the medication took hold and how the anti-inflammatory and other treatments were bringing that along. To what extent there's progress being made -- some, but not to the point where obviously, he's ready to take some swings in the cage, at a minimum.
“I don't think this was totally unanticipated. Anytime you increase volume and intensity, there's probably going to be some aches and pains that anybody goes through. The fact that this is unrelated to the Achilles is a good thing; but at the same time, it's got him idle.''
Ortiz, who has not appeared in a game this spring, acknowledged Monday that he suffered a setback when he attempted a comeback in August after initially injury his right Achilles on July 16, rounding the bases on an Adrian Gonzalez home run in the eighth inning against the White Sox. Ortiz played one game after that, on Aug. 24 against the Royals, when he went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, aggravating the injury. That was the 90th game he played last season, his fewest games since 2001 with the Twins when he appeared in 89.
He would not say, however, that the decision to play in August was a mistake.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I want to play. And you know how our mind is. I don’t tell myself that I feel 100 percent to play every day. Nobody will. We play too many games. And seeing the team’s needing me, and me feeling alright about the injury compared with what I feel before, it was like, 'Let me take my chances.' Which was something that, what could I tell you, I could lose it all right there. It was not my thing. But my career’s about that. I just want to play.”
While he felt pain in the Achilles performing drills before playing in August, the pain was not enough to keep him out. The intensity level in drills, though, he acknowledged, was not the same as game level.
“So it’s a whole totally different subject once the game starts,” he said.
“I was OK to play but it wasn’t like I was normal. I was some percentage I was feeling good, but the result was that I wasn’t good to go.”
Ortiz knows how important he is to the Red Sox offense. He hit .318 with a 1.026 OPS, his best mark since 2007. He is trying to balance getting back in the lineup with being able to stay in the lineup.
“That’s the one thing that we pretty much are trying to avoid,” he said. “Just coming back and not being able to stay in the lineup the way everybody expect me to be. So that’s why I’m going to approach this depending on how I feel. And I’m going to try to be smart about it. Because when I go back in I want to be in it. Setbacks are very frustrating. And I’ve already had one. I had two by the way, because the one time when I tried to get back in August and this [recent setback]. So it’s just not fun.”
His goal is not necessarily Opening Day.
“The season is not on Opening Day,” he said. “The season is six months longer. If I can be there for the next five-and-a-half, five months of the season, I think it will cover more ground than just be there for Opening Day and then miss the next five months. So we’re going to be there, but we’re going to be there at the right time, hopefully.”
While his progress has been slowed, he believes it is going in the right direction. For now, he is limited to running in the pool and training room activities, along with taking anti-inflammatory medication. Both heels had been bothering him, but the left is feeling much better. He believes that heel became inflamed because he was compensating for the injury in his right heel.
But his right Achilles is much better, he said.
“The pain that I used to feel is not there anymore,” he said. “And MRIs, everyone pretty much talk about you can see the difference between the one that I have at the beginning when I first got injured and the one that I have now. It seems like somebody just gave me a new Achilles. That’s what it seems like.”
It’s been a strange spring for Ortiz, an extension of his strange offseason.
“Yeah, it has,” he said. “I wasn’t able to do anything [in the offseason] because got to be [doing] therapy five days a week. That’s been a big part of my frustration. You busted your tail a big part of the offseason just to make sure you’re good to go by now and not being ready, just a little frustrating. But it is what it is, right?
“Not being able to play and do what I’m supposed to do by this time, it’s not fun. I’m just trying to deal with and [the] setback is pretty much frustrating the most. Because you think you’re doing the right thing to get better, the next thing you know it’s like walking backwards. That’s the part of this game right here that I don’t like, [that] I hate playing. Hopefully, that’s not the case anymore. They’re pushing things different. And hopefully get to the point where we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”