David Ortiz (seen stretching before a game last season) finally returned to the Boston lineup yesterday, starting the game off with some stirring words during a pre-game ceremony. (Image Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Big Papi Has Big Pain

The groans from Boston Red Sox spring training camp are probably coming out of David Ortiz‘s mouth these days, but they are being echoed by Sox management. That’s because Big Papi is having trouble with not one, but two heels. Yes, count ‘em, one, two. Achilles himself only had one heel problem so when it comes to injury lore Ortiz may be a trailblazer here.

Ortiz just underwent MRI’s on both of his heels. It was said that he was going to be out of the lineup for five-to-seven days. Now it is being said that Ortiz, Boston’s designated hitter, won’t be ready for opening day April 1 when the Sox meet the New York Yankees in New York (Talk about the walking wounded).

This is very bad news for Ortiz, for the Red Sox, and for Red Sox fans. Although they tried, the Red Sox’s manipulation of its roster in the off-season didn’t quite live up to expectations. Without Ortiz in the lineup Boston has a rather large power gap. The Sox were ready to give up on Ortiz a couple of seasons ago, but he kept playing himself into new contracts.

In 2o1o Ortiz smacked 32 home runs and drove in 102. In 2011, Ortiz cracked 29 home runs and drove in 96. In 2012, in just 90 games Ortiz whacked 23 home runs, drove in 60, and batted .318. He made the American League All-Star team all three seasons. The problematic part of all this is the 90 games. Ortiz’s season ended on July 16 because of an Achilles heel injury that figured to be cured by now. He is also now 37, an age when body parts on baseball players begin to fall apart.

Now that Ortiz’s return has been slowed the Red Sox have to ask the question of how effective he will be when it is deemed he is 100 percent healthy. It is also going to be a lingering, whispered question of whether or not Ortiz will ever be 100 percent again.

The Red Sox owed Ortiz every courtesy, every benefit of the doubt. He was a cornerstone player on the 2004 and 2007 World Championship teams that restored Boston fans’ faith after more than eight decades. He is one of the greatest clutch hitters in team history and he kept on producing. He has also been one of the most popular players in team history and is greatly admired in the community for his charitable work. You don’t want to kiss a guy like that goodbye too soon and you don’t want to look like the heavy in jettisoning him.

The Red Sox were a walking disaster in 2012. Numerous players incurred injuries and Boston finished in last place in the AL Eastern Division. Not even an early return by Ortiz could have saved Boston last year. Everyone agreed that with rest he should be fine after a rehabbing winter and everyone was looking forward to a fresh 2013 start for the Red Sox and Ortiz. Neither Ortiz nor the Red Sox wanted to hear a word about any kind of Ortiz achiness, not even if it was a baby toe.

As a designated hitter of reasonably gargantuan size (6-foot-4 and a listed 250, yeah right), Ortiz is not expected to be the second coming of Jesse Owens on the bases. If it were possible Ortiz never would run the bases and then maybe his heels wouldn’t be an obstacle. But although Ortiz doesn’t play the field he still has to run out of the batter’s box when he makes contact.

Limping down the first-base line doesn’t cut it for Ortiz or the Red Sox. The big man needs to return to form as Big Papi or it’s going to be another long season in Boston.

Tags: Boston Red Sox David Ortiz

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