McAdam: Ortiz's torrid start one of a kind

McAdam: Ortiz's torrid start one of a kind
May 1, 2013, 12:45 pm
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TORONTO -- John Farrell is 50 years old and has spent his entire adult life in baseball.
      
He's been a pitcher, a pitching coach, a farm director and now, a manager.
      
He's seen a lot of baseball. But Tuesday night, after David Ortiz slammed a solo homer and added a three-run double that (briefly) gave the Red Sox a 7-6 lead, he was asked if he had ever seen anything like what Ortiz has done in his first nine games of 2013.
      
Farrell didn't hesitate.
      
"No, not in a nine-game stretch like this," said Farrell after the Sox saw their five-game winning streak snapped with a 9-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. "Particularly given the circumstances by which he's come back to us."
      
The "circumstances" to which Farrell refers, of course, include missing all of spring training with the after-affects of a heel injury, originally incurred last July.
      
As recently as mid-March, Ortiz had to be shutdown for all baseball activity for a period of a more than a week. When the Red Sox left Fort Myers on the final weekend of March, Ortiz hadn't yet begun to see live pitching. After spending some time in extended spring training, he had an abbreviated six-game rehab session at Pawtucket, during which he hit just .222 (4-for-18).
      
When he was activated April 20, the Red Sox said he would likely need some time off early in the season to manage his heel. And they hinted that it would take some time for Ortiz to find himself at the plate, having had little game activity to sharpen his skills and find his timing.
      
Oh.     

  • In his nine games to date, Ortiz has hit safely in all nine, with multi-hit games in seven.
  • He's knocked in at least one run in his last six games. In those six games, he's knocked in 13 runs.
  • He has 15 RBI this season, or more in nine games than any one player on the Houston Astros has collected in three times the amount of games.
  • He's hit .500 (8-for-16) with runners in scoring position.
  • He's slugging .917 and his OPS is 1.429, numbers that seem like they're straight out of a video game.
  • He's hitting .375 against lefty starters and .600 against all righthanders.

After the game Tuesday, as Ortiz dressed and prepared to answer questions from reporters gathered at his locker, one playfully asked what the slugger's plans were for next February and March, since, clearly, he's proven this season that the usual February and March drudgery and grind aren't important.
      
Ortiz laughed, and played along with the joke, saying he might vacation in Hawaii.
      
But when he took questions, Ortiz, asked what was the biggest contributing factor to his torrid start, turned more serious.
      
"Lot of work, man," he said. "Lot of work."
      
Work in the cage, on the back fields of Fort Myers, in the weight room. Whatever he did, it's working.
      
His teammates are in awe of Ortiz's start and his impact on the lineup. In the nine games he's played, the Red Sox have averaged 6.3 runs per game; in the 17 he's missed, the Red Sox have averaged 4.4 runs per game.
      
Even if you factor in that four of Ortiz's nine games came against Houston, inarguably the worst team in the American League, and, likely, the worst team in the big leagues, that kind of correlation can't be ignored.
      
Ortiz has made the Red Sox' offense better in measurable ways, and, hard work aside, made it look easy in the process.