FORT MYERS, Fla. - David Ortiz laughed, then said: "Feeling good. I feel a little faster. What do you think?"
A surgically repaired knee might not make Ortiz a candidate to steal more bases, but he and his partner in crime, Manny Ramírez, look ready for a season that starts a week earlier than usual. In yesterday's 12-7 win over the Twins at Hammond Stadium, Ortiz and Ramírez each had an RBI double among two hits, and Ramírez also drew a walk.
"Manny, man," Ortiz said, "he's ready to go this year. I'm telling you right now.
"Just from watching him we learn. He's so smooth. And the good thing that happened to the two of us is we know each other pretty good, so when he's doing something wrong I'll be screaming at him. When I'm doing something wrong he does the same thing. That helps us to figure things out from one at-bat to another.
"We're the kind of hitters that like to hit deep in the count. Sometimes we might see one pitch to hit and that's about it. Working on getting prepared early and being ready for whatever happens."
Ready? That seems about right. After starting the spring 2 for 9, Ortiz is 4 for 8 in his last three games. Ramírez was 3 for 16 before going 4 for 5 the last two days.
"The timing," manager Terry Francona said. "Their clocks, they know."
Even though Ortiz dismissed spring training statistics, it doesn't hurt to start hitting as the season gets closer. Ramírez opens the campaign just 10 home runs shy of 500.
"It's great, man," Ortiz said. "There's not too many guys out there [that have that many]. As good as he is, as good as he's been in his career, he deserves that and even more. The guy is a machine and I have learned so much from Manny since I got here.
"You've got to work to get to it. That's why Manny's numbers have always been the way they have been. The guy has an amazing routine. Every day. Every day. That's why. Confidence, too. He's so confident."
Asked how much longer the pair could continue at such a high level, Ortiz laughed again and echoed what Ramírez had expressed earlier in camp. "Hopefully seven more years," Ortiz said. "At least."
He's better off the batClay Buchholz struggled in his first two starts this spring, especially in the first inning. But after bobbling a bunt that allowed the Twins' first batter yesterday, Carlos Gomez, to reach, Buchholz settled in and retired nine in a row.
Buchholz, who struck out three, was lifted in the fourth after allowing two runs on a pair of doubles and a single.
"Commanded his fastball," Francona said. "We talked about it all the time. He sets up that changeup . . . the way that changeup is makes him pretty effective."
Buchholz said the bullpen work he did with pitching coach John Farrell Sunday was helpful, keeping him balanced and preventing his head from going back during his delivery. "I felt a whole lot more comfortable," Buchholz said. "Everything felt like it was coming out of my hand good, changeups, fastball, curveballs, sliders. Felt like it was on a downward plane."
Improved mechanics and a lower ERA (9.35) still haven't solidified the role in which Buchholz will start the season.
"I'm still out on a limb for that one," he said. "Just waiting to hear what the guys say. Either way I'd love to be up here and help this team win, but if it doesn't happen, hopefully I'll be up here in the near future."
Colon to take turnBartolo Colon is scheduled to pitch in his first game today against Tampa Bay at City of Palms Park. The righthander will start and is expected to throw a maximum of two innings . . . Francona said Julio Lugo might be able to play by Friday after missing 10 games with lower back tightness. Coco Crisp (groin), meanwhile, took swings in the cage from both sides. He still has discomfort when he swings from the right side and there is no timetable for his return. Francona did say he and general manager Theo Epstein plan to meet with Crisp today to gauge the progression of his rehab . . . There were no updates on Josh Beckett, though Francona said Beckett experienced some stiffness yesterday morning after doing stretching and conditioning work Tuesday. Francona said the team is not going to make a rash decision about whether Beckett will miss the trip to Japan . . . The Sox reassigned reliever Dan Kolb to minor league camp . . . The Sox retained the Mayor's Cup by winning their spring series with the Twins, 3 games to 2. "We'll try to be humble," Francona said. "It's hard, but we'll try. That's what [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] said, 'I thought you'd bring it over here.' I went to wish him good luck, he said, 'I can't believe you're not carrying it.' "
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.