FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz said Monday that he while he understands his value to the Red Sox offense, he won’t risk further injury by coming back too soon.
Ortiz tried that last season and suffered a setback he’s still paying for.
“That’s the thing we’re pretty much are trying to avoid, coming back and not being able to stay in the lineup the way everybody expects me to be,” he said. “I’m going to push it depending on how I feel. I’m going to try to be smart about it. When I go back in, I want to be in. Setbacks are very frustrating.”
Ortiz strained his right Achilles’ tendon last July 16. He came off the disabled list and played against the Royals on Aug. 24, collecting two hits and driving in two runs. But he aggravated the injury and did not play again last season.
“I was OK to play, but it wasn’t like I was normal,” Ortiz said. “Some percentage I was feeling good. But the result was I wasn’t good to go.
“I wanted to play. You know how our mind is. I don’t need to tell myself I feel 100 percent every day to play. Seeing the team waiting for me and me feeling all right about playing compared to what I was feeling before, it was like, take my chances.”
Ortiz was limited to batting practice at the start of spring training. When he started running the bases, that led to inflammation in both heels, particularly the right. The Red Sox shut him down on March 10 and Ortiz has since been limited to off-field workouts.
Manager John Farrell said over the weekend that Ortiz might take batting practice on Monday. But he did not.
Ortiz has been jogging on an underwater treadmill and doing “all kinds of stuff” with team trainers and therapists. There is no date for when he will return to the field.
Ortiz, whose shorts and t-shirt were soaked after a pool workout, put his foot on a chair and showed reporters that the inflammation is between his Achilles tendon and a bone in his heel. The majority of the pain is on the side of his heel.
“[The left heel] was just compensating for other side,” he said. “Once I stopped doing things, it started feeling better right away. But the other one, on the other hand, it’s getting there. It’s just a matter of time.”
Ortiz said his actual Achilles feels fine and the pain he once felt is no longer there. He joked that it feels like it’s a new tendon.
“It’s dark, pretty nice,” he said.
Now there is pain related to the original injury and all the time off he had.
“Inflammation causes you pain. We’re just waiting for that inflammation to walk away,” Ortiz said. “The setback is pretty much what frustrates me the most. You think you’re doing the right thing to get better and next thing you know it’s like walking backwards. That’s the part of this game right here that I don’t like. I hate playing it.”
As his teammates prepare for the season opener on April 1 in New York, Ortiz waits.
“Even the offseason was really strange. I wasn’t able to do anything because you’ve got to get the therapy five days a week,” he said. “That’s a big part of my frustration. You bust your tail this offseason just to make sure you’re good to go. It’s really frustrating.”
But Ortiz believes he is going in the right direction.
“It seems like it,” he said. “This is something that time, and I would say doing the right thing, it’ll be fine.”
Ortiz said the season is not defined by Opening Day. His hope is to be fully healthy by the middle of April or early May.
“We’re going to be there. But we’re going to be there at the right time, hopefully,” he said.
Ortiz was asked if he thinks rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. should take his place on the roster.
“I heard he’s a really good player. I haven’t been able to really watch him because they keep me indoors just doing a whole bunch of things. By the time I finish, the game is over. I talk to him once in a while. I heard he’s got skills. You never know,” he said. “When you got it, you got it.”
Bradley is 22. Ortiz was asked what he was doing at that age.
“I was hitting bombs in the big leagues,” he said.
Will he do that at the age of 37? For now, the wait continues.