Papi no longer worried about Achilles

Red Sox slugger fired up to work with new skipper Farrell

Papi no longer worried about Achilles

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Moments after sitting down for his annual Spring Training State of Papi address on Tuesday, David Ortiz reported what Red Sox fans were hoping to hear.

"I think it's going to happen," Ortiz said when asked if he'd be in the starting lineup on April 1, when the Red Sox open their season at Yankee Stadium.

During the latter part of last season, Ortiz disappeared from the lineup. With a right Achilles injury that was more serious than anyone imagined, the lefty slugger played just one game after suffering the injury.

With the passage of time, Ortiz can now admit the kind of risk he took the night of Aug. 25 -- his one-game comeback against the Royals. The double Ortiz hit that night was a thrill for Red Sox fans, but the slugger immediately reinjured himself, only confirming that he rushed his comeback.

"I was worried about my Achilles snapping," said Ortiz. "Yeah, I wasn't ready. I thought I was. I was doing some running and stuff. I know that I wasn't 100 percent, but I thought I was going to be able to survive for the rest of the season. And things got worse, especially after I hit that double.

"I [was] in a lot of pain, and I actually put my career to the side trying to come back and tried to help this ballclub that was struggling badly. The doctor told me that I could snap my Achilles running down to second base, and you guys know the rest of it."

That same night, the Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Dodgers. If anything, the trade gave Ortiz clarity that he could stop trying to be a hero and be smart. The key was to be ready for 2013.

"I'm not concerned about it, because we did a whole bunch of stuff with my Achilles through last year and we went back and took an MRI, and my Achilles looked pretty normal," Ortiz said. "Before that, it was a tiny tear there. I was worried. That's not the case anymore. Right after, I did that [platelet-rich plasma injection] and the shockwave and a whole bunch of different stuff the doctor had me doing.

"It wasn't my concern once we started doing things. It was pretty much, your mind, how it reacts when you're not doing something and then you start doing it again. So I'm not worried about my Achilles anymore, to be honest with you."

That said, it was a difficult offseason for Ortiz, one in which he had to be patient.

"A couple of weeks ago, I started doing drills and stuff and feeling good. I'm not 100 percent yet, but I was pain free doing it, which is a good sign," Ortiz said. "Now the trainers are moving forward with things slowly, and tomorrow we're going to continue doing the drills and stuff. But the good thing is that I was hitting and it didn't bother me at all hitting.

"Running, doing agility drills -- at the beginning, I was a little concerned. Later on, I was getting after it pretty normal, didn't have any setback or anything. I was surprised myself."

Instead of monotonous rehab, Ortiz is ready to start occupying his mind with his favorite subject again.

"Make sure I go deep. That's all you worry about," Ortiz said.

Before the Achilles injury, Ortiz was on the verge of his best all-around season in years. In 90 games, he batted .318 with 23 homers, 60 RBIs and a 1.026 OPS.

Ortiz said that he takes pride in hard work contributing to such a surge in the latter years of his career.

As for several players -- including Alex Rodriguez -- being associated with a recent PED scandal, Ortiz is a little baffled.

"First of all, when I first heard about that, I started saying that us as baseball players, we pretty much might be the dumbest athletes out of all the sports because of the history of players doing stuff like that and later on getting caught," said Ortiz. "We're talking about six, seven years and probably more going back, so how come in 2011, 2012, there are players still getting caught in the same situation? Like I always say, everyone's got their reasons."

Ortiz was on the list of 103 players who tested positive for banned substances during what was supposed to be anonymous survey testing in 2003. Papi was adamant -- and still is -- that he never took steroids but was instead careless with supplements.

Is Ortiz worried that fans suspect his late-career surge could be related to PED use?

"What I can tell you is I keep working hard and I keep trying my best," Ortiz said. "I'm not going to be [playing] for the rest of my life. You know what I'm saying? At some point, enough is enough. But I think when you work hard, things pay off. I don't care if people have their doubts about the things you're capable of doing. As long as your name is not being mentioned in a situation like that, I think it's OK."

With the security of a two-year contract, Ortiz was clearly at peace as he held court on Tuesday.

If fans are annoyed with how the Red Sox played last season, Ortiz feels their pain.

"To be honest with you, I didn't have patience last year, and I'm a player. So I can imagine the fans and where they're at," Ortiz said.

But he thinks that the front office has put the team in position to win again, thanks in large part by replacing Bobby Valentine with new manager John Farrell.

"You know, a lot of players had a lot of issues with our manager last year," said Ortiz. "We have a new manager, a guy who is familiar with the organization, a guy who we pretty much grew up around. That's John."

Earlier in the day, Dustin Pedroia downplayed Valentine's impact on the demise of the 2012 season. But Ortiz felt it was real.

"An organization, a team is like the human body. If the head is right, the body is going to function right," Ortiz said. "If the head is messed up, then the body is going to be all over the place. It seemed like that was part of our situation last year. Guys weren't comfortable with the manager that we had.

"Guys were struggling. Even situations that, as a player, you need to handle better. Sometimes you get confused and you get caught in a situation where you don't know how you're going to react to things. The first thing that our organization did was to go out there and try to fix that.

"I'm pretty sure that everybody is looking at that as a positive move. Now it's like a fresh start. I'm pretty sure a lot of guys are comfortable with what they're going to be seeing. We're going back to the basics with a manager like John."

And a healthy Ortiz should also make a substantial difference.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.