BOSTON -- Bobby Valentine had originally planned on playing Mike Aviles at second base on Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles.
Not just to find room for Aviles in the Red Sox starting lineup, but also to give Dustin Pedroia some time off. The team didn't return home from Tampa until 4 a.m. Friday; and the fact that Pedroia's wife, Kelli, recently gave birth to their second child, also factored into Valentine's thinking.
But Pedroia showed up to Fenway Park at his regular time, and was insistent that he play. And with Jose Iglesias starting at shortstop and Pedro Ciriaco at third base, there was once again no room for Aviles in the starting lineup, for the fifth time in six games.
"I wish I had Aviles' playing time figured out, for his sake," said Valentine before Friday's game. "But the way things change around here -- for instance -- I was thinking about playing him at second base today, and giving Dustin this day off, as we got in at 4 o'clock in the morning, and he has a newborn. I know him, with family and business, that he really wanted to play today. So that's a game that Mike didn't get to play.
"That's Dustin," added Valentine. "You know, you've got to love him. He has no injuries that he's dealing with, and he brought his older son Dylan to the ballpark. I told him to stay home late, come late. Instead, he came at the regular time, and took a little stress away from Kelli at home.
"By 2 o'clock, he was insistent."
Major League Baseball is reportedly set to release more PED testing results, but Mike Felger is growing increasingly more confident in the fact that David Ortiz is clean. He's passing all the tests, isn't he?
CHICAGO -- It could happen Thursday night, or perhaps sometime this weekend in New York, where he always hits well.
But sometime soon, David Ortiz is going to tie, then surpass, Carl Yastrzesmski as the second-greatest home run hitter in Red Sox history.
Ortiz hit his sixth of the season Wednesday night, giving him 451 for his Red Sox career, one behind Yastrzemski. Ted Williams is, of course, the Red Sox' all-time leader with 521, safely out of reach.
"Know what happens when that's happening?'' asked Ortiz, when told of the approaching milestone. "I'm getting old, man. Like I always say, whenever they mention your name right next to the legends, it's something that, humbly I can tell you, is an honor.''
What makes Ortiz's spot on the list all the more amazing is that he has reached these heights after being discarded by the Minnesota Twins some 14 years ago.
He arrived as a backup first baseman, initially stuck behind Jeremy Giambi on the Red Sox depth chart. He'll retire, later this year, as one of the handful of best hitters the franchise has ever known.
On nights like Wednesday, the context seemed to have Ortiz himself in awe.
"I was just a guy who was trying to have a good career,'' said Ortiz, “and put (my) family in a better situation. Now, all of a sudden, these things are happening. It's a blessing.''
It's a stretch to suggest that these things are happening "all of a sudden.'' To the contrary, they're the result of a remarkable stretch of 14 seasons in Boston.
Only now are the numbers coming into focus. And what numbers they are.
Beyond Ortiz's ascension on the all-time lists for the both Major League Baseball and the Red Sox in particular are the improbable feats of a 40-year-old who is performing this season at a level that would be impressive for a hitter a decade younger.
* When Ortiz homered off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances last Friday, he did so on a first-pitch curveball. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated noted that Betances had thrown 355 first-pitch curveballs in his career; Ortiz was the first to hit a homer on one of those pitches.
In fact, only six of the first 355 had even been put in play.
Ortiz hit his well into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie and send the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory.
* On Wednesday night, Ortiz became the first lefthanded hitter to ever homer off White Sox lefty starter Carlos Rodon.
Since last July 2, Ortiz is third among all lefthanded hitters in hitting homers off lefthanded pitchers. That's quite an accomplishment for someone who was being benched as recently as last June against some lefty starters.
And what did Rodon learn about that particular showdown?
"Don't throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,'' said Rodon.
Sounds like a good strategy.
It's fairly amazing that a 40-year-old, in his final season, is enjoying all these firsts. But Ortiz has lasted this long, and played at such a high level, precisely because he works to get better all the time.
Manager John Farrell noted that Ortiz hadn't faced Rodon before Wednesday night and didn't look particularly good in his first two at-bats, grounding into a double play and hitting a flyout.
But Ortiz is forever making mental notes, getting ready to make adjustments and process what he's seen.
"His retention is great,'' marveled Farrell. "He understands what he's seeing after just one at-bat.''
There's still more than five months to go in the regular season and a lot can happen in that span. But after a month in 2016, it seems likely that we are in the midst of one of the greatest final seasons a player has ever enjoyed.