A-Rod expresses love and respect for Ortiz

Sluggers mend fences after years of chilly relationship

A-Rod expresses love and respect for Ortiz

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Although the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees may have cooled over the past few seasons, it wasn't as chilly as the relationship between the teams' current designated hitters -- David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez.

The two were friends when they were much younger, having played together in the Mariners' system. They stayed friends despite several uniform changes by both, but that changed two years ago.

At that time, Ortiz took issue with comments made by Rodriguez's lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, in a radio interview. That put a definite chill on their friendship.

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Perhaps that is changing.

Asked after Tuesday night's Yankees-Red Sox game, a 6-3 Yankees win, if he felt a need to reach out to Ortiz during his time in town, Rodriguez said, "I spoke to him today. I'm happy for him. He's in a good place.

"I love Big Papi. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he's been an incredible ambassador for the game. I'm looking forward to him leaving the game at a height -- and for him to leave the game. He's crushed us over the years."

Ortiz announced on his 40th birthday in November that he will retire after this season. Asked what he thinks the rivalry will be like without Ortiz, Rodriguez replied:

"On this side it will be a lot more fun."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.