After missing 35 games with a strained right Achilles’ tendon, designated hitter David Ortiz returned to the Red Sox lineup Friday night against the Kansas City Royals with a splash, going 2 for 4 with two RBIs in a 4-3 victory.
Ortiz was greeted with a thunderous ovation when he stepped to the plate in the first inning and immediately delivered, hitting a two-run single to center for a 2-0 lead.
“That felt great,’’ Ortiz said. “The fans always support me and I was glad, at least, to be able to put some pressure on the opposite team right away.’’
To make room for Ortiz on the roster, the Sox optioned righthanded reliever Junichi Tazawa to Triple A Pawtucket. Tazawa, who had not allowed a run in his last five outings, worked 1⅓ innings in Thursday night’s 14-13 loss to the Angels in 10 innings.
Ortiz had to go through one last evaluation before he was cleared to return to the lineup. He participated in batting practice and ran the bases Thursday under the supervision of the team’s medical staff.
“I feel like I forced them to put me in,’’ Ortiz said. “The medical staff and everybody, they had nothing to do with this. I forced them to put me in. They were like, ‘Are you sure? We don’t want you to aggravate it,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, throw me out there.’
“I was feeling good running out there, but the intensity when you practice, it’s not the same.’’
When Ortiz’s name and image was shown on the center-field videoboard, the Fenway crowd gave a loud ovation.
“He wants to be out there more than anybody and he’s trying everything he can to do without putting his season at risk or even next season,’’ said Cody Ross. “You’re talking about a foot and you don’t mess around with that. You’re always on it and you need it to swing, to run, to do everything. He’s smart enough to know that and he wanted to come back as fast as he could and today was the day he thought was as soon as possible.’’
It was apparent Ortiz was not at 100 percent when he jogged to first base on his first-inning single. He was erased on a double play as he trotted to second.
He showed a little more giddy-up when he doubled to center in his second at-bat, in the third inning. As he rounded first, Ortiz said he had no flashbacks to when he suffered the injury July 16 while rounding second base.
“The thing is, I was playing like I am right now,’’ he said. “Right now, I don’t want that to happen again so I’ve got to be careful and try to do the right thing.
“I want to be back and playing, but it is what it is.’’
Bailey plays a role
Andrew Bailey, who was projected to be the closer in spring training, recorded his first save with the after returning from thumb surgery Aug. 14.
With Alfredo Aceves throwing 37 pitches Thursday night, Bailey proved the freshest arm at the back end of the bullpen.
He was summoned to get the last out of the eighth, and when he came back out for the ninth, “I was pumped up,’’ said Bailey, who retired the side in order.
“I feel comfortable in that inning, not to say that I don’t feel comfortable in any inning,’’ Bailey said. “It was just nice to get back out there and going out again for the ninth. I’d been doing it for a couple of years and I’m comfortable in that role.
“From here on out, whatever they want to do is fine by me.’’
In the dark
Manager Bobby Valentine spent much of his postgame interview trying to deflect questions about trade rumors. He pulled Adrian Gonzalez from the starting lineup just before the game.
“I have no idea what this trade might be,’’ Valentine said. “I was only asked to take Adrian out of the lineup.’’
Asked about Gonzalez’s reaction to the lineup change, Valentine said, “He had already heard about it, so he was kind of telling me. He wasn’t surprised. I said, ‘Did this happen?’ and he said, ‘No, but it might,’ so I guess he knows what I know.’’
Josh Beckett’s involvement in the trade talks with the Dodgers cast doubt upon his availability to start Saturday against the Royals. Asked if Beckett was still starting, Valentine said, “Yeah, Randy [Niemann, pitching coach] just asked me that and I could only tell him, to the best of my knowledge, yes.’’ . . . Rich Hill made a rehab appearance for Pawtucket for the second straight night, working a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in Charlotte, N.C. He also threw a scoreless frame Thursday.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.