Papi's final-season journey officially begins

Slugger has first workout at final Red Sox camp; to address media Tuesday

Papi's final-season journey officially begins

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At the end of David Ortiz's first Spring Training workout of his final Major League season, the slugger hopped into a golf cart with fellow Red Sox legends Jim Rice and Luis Tiant.

"This is going to be me next year -- chilling," Ortiz said of the ride with two players who have long since retired.

But before Ortiz gets to next year, he will have one final season of memories with the Red Sox, the team he reached stardom with shortly after arriving in 2003.

It didn't take long for Ortiz's arrival to create a buzz around camp.

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In batting practice, Ortiz sprayed towering homers and an array of line drives from foul line to foul line.

"Papi, that one went all the way to the Dominican," a fan hollered as one of his more impressive blasts left the yard.

With his final swing of BP, Ortiz belted one in front of a tractor beyond the right-field fence.

Ortiz, in a jovial mood, had informal discussions with just about everyone who crossed paths with him on Monday.

"You have more hair than I do," Ortiz hollered to manager John Farrell, who was bald only a few months ago from chemotherapy treatments but is now back to work full-time.

One of his encounters was with newly acquired ace lefty David Price, a man Ortiz had feuded with verbally in the past.

"Big D," Ortiz hollered as he spotted Price and then wrapped him in a hug. "I've got your back."    

Outlook: Ortiz, DH, BOS

Ortiz will hold his first interview session of camp on Tuesday in what has become, more or less, the annual State of Big Papi Address.

You can expect plenty of that discussion to center around Ortiz's decision to retire.

Despite what is on the horizon after the season, the 40-year-old Ortiz seemed as focused on the job at hand as ever, and every bit as enthusiastic.

"He looks great," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's ready. Right after the season, me and my wife went to Italy and he had gone also, and we overlapped in a city and went to dinner and we were talking about a lot of things. I'm definitely excited. I'm a little upset it's his last year, but it will be cool to just see him go through everything. With what he's done in his career, it's pretty special."

Pedroia discovered that in Italy, Ortiz is not the celebrity he is in Boston, the Dominican Republic and every section of Red Sox Nation.

"Nobody recognized him," said Pedroia. "He was kind of like, 'What's going on here?' I'm like, 'Man, they don't watch baseball too much."'

But all eyes will be on Ortiz for what the slugger hopes is a memorable final chapter.

"He's in great shape," said Farrell. "I've had a chance to sit with him a couple of times in the offseason. I know he's looking forward to this year for a number of reasons. But above all, he wants to win, as we all do, and I think it speaks volumes the way he showed up, the condition that he's in. We look forward to him being a main cog and a main presence in our lineup."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.