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Ortiz in a painful spot

It hurts to sit; it'll hurt to play

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / August 10, 2012
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If he’s going to play, he’s going to have to play in pain. All year.

David Ortiz is resigned to it.

“There’s an ultrasound treatment I could have — but I’d have to do it after the season — that should clear this up,” said Ortiz, who does not need surgery on his strained right Achilles’ tendon. “I can’t have it now because it takes three or four weeks to recover from it. It gets the blood flowing in that area because the heel is a tough place for blood flow, and I’m not getting as much as I need right now.”

The sidelined Red Sox DH did agility drills again Thursday and said, “I feel sore. I think it’s a good sore, but it’s sore. It’s just something I’m going to have to put up with.”

As for a possible return Sunday — after Ortiz has had a couple of more days to run — manager Bobby Valentine didn’t rule it out, but Ortiz said, “I don’t know right now.”

This is a tough one for Ortiz, because he knows he’s just not going to be himself, yet he wants to get back out there and help because he feels there’s too much talent on this team for the Sox not to take off. He knows his bat in the middle of the lineup can make a huge difference. In addition to the power he can add, his presence makes Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, and others better as well.

“We just haven’t been able to go and keep going,” Ortiz said. “We win a couple and then we lose a couple and we just can’t seem to keep going. There’s a lot of talent here, and I’d like to be able to get back in there and help us get back in there.”

He feels badly that the team isn’t winning with Valentine at the helm because he’s a big fan of the manager. Several times, he has asked Valentine what he can do to help him out. And Valentine appreciates the big guy’s dedication and willingness to go above and beyond.

Though some fans and media have already written off the Red Sox and their playoff hopes, Ortiz doesn’t seem ready to do that. If they were out of it, there would be no point in continuing to play with the pain. He would just have the ultrasound treatment and then rest.

But Ortiz is willing to suck it up.

Of course, if he hits home runs, he won’t have to run hard.

“I just want to get in there and swing the bat and give this lineup the power,” Ortiz said. “I want to help win games.”

Which is why the injury has been so frustrating for him.

He steps into the box for batting practice, as he did before Thursday night’s game, and tattoos the ball as though nothing is wrong. He is hitting darts to left field, balls over the fence with effortless swings. But once he starts running full throttle, that’s when the pain arises.

There have been days when the soreness lessens, and if he makes the leap back into the lineup, he hopes to have days when he feels fine.

But even if he returns, his playing time will have to be managed. He will have to be pinch-run for late in games and will need a day off here and there. When he plays, he won’t necessarily be able to play all-out.

The irony is that Ortiz had reinvented himself as a baserunner this season. His weight loss made him much lighter on his feet — until he hurt the heel on an awkward start-and-stop at second base on a Gonzalez home run July 16.

In addition to all of this, from a personal point of view, he is in a contract year — and is having an excellent season. He leads the league in OPS (1.024) and is hitting .316 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs.

Ortiz is asked about his heel and when he can return almost every day. He doesn’t know what to say. He is trying to make everyone understand that what he has isn’t an easy injury to deal with. It’s a nagging thing that he knows will get better, but only after he has had the treatment and can rest for a few weeks. Right now, he’s not willing to do that because he thinks there is still something to fight for.

Social media folks often tweet that Ortiz should just call it a year because there’s no point in returning. Ortiz is fighting off that notion, and when he’s through with batting practice on most days, he knows he can still hit.

“If I could have someone run for me . . . ,” he laughed.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo

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