Notes: Big Papi says swing is a 'mess'

Notes: Big Papi not happy with his stroke

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Those onlookers who saw David Ortiz smash several batting practice home runs deep into the trees and woods during Sunday's workout would definitely be surprised by Big Papi's early evaluation of his stroke.

"My swing is a mess right now," said Ortiz. "It takes a [while] to put it together, but when you come from the offseason ... it happens to me every year. Later in March is when I start getting my swing the way it is."

As an illustration of the funk Ortiz is in, the bat fell out of his hands when he took a swing off top prospect Jon Lester during batting practice.

"Hopefully it will get better before we start playing," Ortiz said.

Looking at the sheer strength of Ortiz and the way the ball whistles off his bat, it would be easy to assume he could just roll out of bed and start belting prodigious blasts.

But a big reason Ortiz has gone from a platoon player in Minnesota to a superstar in Boston is because of the hours he puts into his craft.

In other words, Ortiz isn't assuming his stroke is just going to magically reappear one of these sunny spring mornings.

"Just hit every day, keep working," Ortiz said. "It's timing. I don't like to try to pull too much, because when I'm off like that, I basically look forward to getting jammed more than trying to hit the ball off the end of the bat. That's OK, it's early still."

When the Red Sox begin their exhibition season on Thursday night against the Twins, Ortiz will be in Orlando working out with the Dominican team in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

By the time Ortiz starts playing for the Red Sox later in March, expect his swing to be back in sync.

Man on a mission: Right-hander Jonathan Papelbon continues to dazzle during batting practice sessions. Sunday was no exception.

"He really worked hard. He's very well prepared coming into this camp. He's not playing catch-up," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's strong. It's very obvious he worked hard this winter. He just came into camp ready to go."

Though Papelbon's role is yet to be determined, he is doing everything in his power to make a strong bid for the starting rotation.

"We're going to make a decision on how we feel he best suits the ballclub," said Francona. "Believe me when I tell you, he's going to have a lot of responsibility. How that ends up, we just don't know yet. He doesn't have anything to prove anything to me. I like him. He knows we think he's good."

Josh Beckett also threw batting practice and looked sharp.

No rush: Closer Keith Foulke hasn't faced hitters yet this spring, but Francona made it clear that the right-hander is doing just fine from a health standpoint.

"We've always backed him up a week to 10 days," Francona said. "But that's the whole idea, is not to go backwards. He had a strenuous offseason program. Whatever you do in the winter, it's different when you get here. You do your stuff in the winter. You go throw 10-15 minutes, you do your bike work and you're done. Now the days get longer. You're here two to three hours, you're moving around, taking [pitcher's fielding practice], and it's different."

Wells still indoors: Though left-hander David Wells continues to do most of his work inside as he recovers from right knee surgery, Francona is wowed by how effortless it looks when Boomer plays long toss.

"His arm, he's kind of a freak of nature," Francona said. "You saw him throw over there. He was probably throwing 225 feet and just flawless. At the same time, he's not done [the] weight-bearing thing on the field. He's going to get itchy here pretty soon, because his arm feels so good. I know David, he's going to want to go pitch. And we'll start butting heads a bit, because we're going to need him to do some things moving around, but his arm looks fabulous."

Attention to detail: The Red Sox spent a good portion of Sunday's workout practicing bunt plays, and it gave Francona a chance to see just how much the team's infield defense has improved with the additions of J.T. Snow, Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez and Mark Loretta.

"We've made a kind of a statement that we want to be better defensively," Francona said. "We have some athletes in the middle of the infield and we want to use them. So we've adjusted some of the things we're doing, doing it a little bit differently, giving them some responsibility."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.