By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox InsiderFollow @sean_mcadam
HOUSTON -- David Ortiz stayed close to home in selecting his American League Home Run Derby team, stacking the squad with a teammate and at least one other player from an A.L. rival
Ortiz got commitments from teammate Adrian Gonzalez and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista and was waiting to hear from New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira wasn't selected for the All-Star game, though that wouldn't preclude him from taking part.
Under a new format devised by Major League Baseball, Ortiz was named captain of the A.L. squad by virtue of having won the derby at the 2010 game in Anaheim. The N.L. team is headed by Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, who won the derby in 2009.
Bautista led all of baseball in 2010 with 54 homers and went into Sunday with 26 homers this year, the most in either league.
Teixeira was second with 25 homers. Gonzalez had 16 while Ortiz himself had 17.
"It's going to be fun,'' said Gonzalez, who took part in 2009, but hit just two homers. "Hopefully, I can do better the second-time around. But I'm going to enjoy it just like I did the first time and try my best.''
Some players have declined to take part in the past, claiming that the event can negatively impact their swings for weeks after the break.
"There's always times in BP that I try to hit home runs anyway,'' shrugged Gonzalez. ''Hitting home runs in BP is just part of being a ballplayer. I can see why people say it affects their swing but I don't see it affecting my swing.''
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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.