No deal yet? No problem for Ortiz
David Ortiz wasn't distracted by contract negotiations on Opening Day. The Sox slugger collected three hits, including a home run off of Rangers ace Kevin Millwood. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The deal isn't done, despite a TV report out of the Dominican Republic that promised otherwise. And as far as David Ortiz is concerned, the start of the season means the end of negotiations on a contract extension.
''I can't control that," Ortiz said after he singled, doubled, and hit a mammoth home run that turned the right-field foul pole into a giant tuning fork in yesterday's 7-3 Opening Day win over the Texas Rangers. ''You know how it is, man.
''I don't want to worry, now that we're in the season. That's my work, right there. We didn't get anything done in spring training, I guess. You know how it is."
Back in January, Ortiz revealed while playing winter ball in Santo Domingo that he was talking with the club about an extension. A day later, after Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said the club was as eager to extend Ortiz's contract as the player was, it sounded as if a deal might be struck quickly. Ortiz expressed some confidence that it would happen before Opening Day.
That hasn't happened, contrary to the ESPN Deportes report -- picked up as gospel by some media outlets -- that the sides had agreed on a four-year, $50 million extension. And if Ortiz is to be believed, it isn't happening soon.
Henry was present yesterday, along with chairman Tom Werner. The third member of the ruling troika, CEO Larry Lucchino, was not here, which in the light of the winter's front-office follies seemed worthy of note, though Henry told Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy that Lucchino was ''under the weather."
When someone posed a vaguely worded question to Henry about whether the Sox had gotten it done -- meaning a new deal for Ortiz -- he answered at first with a joke, saying, ''I thought you were asking about Werner's engagement."
''I'm not saying anything," Werner said in the same jocular vein. ''I can't even get a date."
''What does that make me, chopped liver?" said Henry, who along with Werner had spent part of the day competing with Rangers owner Tom Hicks for the affections of Roger Clemens, here at Hicks's invitation.
When asked more directly about Ortiz, Henry, eyes hidden behind his shades, said he had no comment.
The general manager, Theo Epstein, was no more forthcoming. Stopped as he was walking down the clubhouse tunnel with his two bosses, Epstein was relayed Ortiz's comments and asked about the status of negotiations. Last week, in response to the ESPN report, Epstein had allowed that ''quiet discussions" were going on.
''They're still quiet," he said yesterday. ''If I told you about it, they'd be loud."
Did that mean, then, that the ''quiet" discussions were still ongoing?
''No comment," he said. ''The only reason I said anything last week was that there was a story going around."
But Ortiz made it sound as though talks have come to a halt.
''No comment," Epstein said. ''Sorry."
It's possible that none of this should be a cause for concern. For one thing, Ortiz is under the Sox' control at least through 2007; they hold an $8.4 million option on next season. And when Ortiz came to terms on his last extension, it happened during the season, in May last year.
But given the team's track record of either failing to come to terms on a deal -- or choosing not to strike one -- with some of its biggest stars, can any Sox fan be blamed for wondering whether the ''greatest clutch hitter in history," as the owners described Ortiz when they presented him with a plaque last year, will ultimately travel the same path as the Rocket or Mo or Nomar or Pedro or Johnny Damon?
Judging by Ortiz's performance yesterday, the contract stuff will not be a hindrance to the way he plays. His home run came off Kevin Millwood, the 2005 American League ERA champion who in a game last June, with Cleveland, was taken deep twice by Big Papi.
Afterward, he was sporting a giant silver belt buckle with his nickname engraved, a gift from a member of his Dominican posse back home. And before he left, he conducted his ritual spraying of the media with ''Eau du Papi," a sinus-clearing cologne that doesn't really bear his name but should, because it's about as subtle as the home runs he hits.
But for all the satisfaction he expressed about yesterday's win, he couldn't help but notice the absence of all the teammates who now play elsewhere.
''I miss everybody, man," he said. ''We played together so long, it's like your family. Put a family together, it's hard to see people walk away.
''But you know how it is, it's a business."