FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Ortiz ripped former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine today, saying, “He did things I’d never seen in the game before.”
Ortiz, who said he expects to be ready for Opening Day as the strength in his Achilles’ tendon improves, said, “An organization and a team is like the human body. If the head is right, the body is going to function right. But if the head is mixed up, they’re going to be all over the place. That was part of our situation last year. Guys weren’t comfortable with the manager we had.
“Even situations, as a player, you have to handle better. But you get confused and you don’t know how you’re going to react with things. The first move our organization did was go and try to fix that. I’m pretty sure we’re looking at that as a positive move. It’s like a fresh start. Pretty sure a lot of guys are comfortable with a manager like John [Farrell]. We’re going to get back to the basics.”
Ortiz was one of the few players who publicly supported Valentine last season. But after he was fired, Valentine made the comment that Ortiz “decided not to play” the rest of the season. Ortiz had suffered a setback with his heel and was advised to shut it down and rest the injury.
Asked what specifically he remembered about Valentine, Ortiz said, “Last year in spring training, just to give you an example. When we were doing workouts, I started seeing things I’ve never seen in baseball. I’ve been watching and playing baseball for a long time. I had question marks on things that I saw. Those question marks went into the season and you guys saw the disaster that happened.
“We were doing drills and game-changing things. For example, we practiced cutoff and relay throws coming from outfielders. The shortstop and second baseman have to go two feet from the outfielder to take the throw and it gives the runner an extra step. The outfielder is watching the guys run. I didn’t think we got anyone out with that play. I saw guys hitting the cutoff man 20 feet away from the infield.
“Those are the things, I don’t think they get the games any better. That’s a different game I grew up watching. Little things that happened. Everybody has their reasons for doing that.”
Valentine’s reasoning was that his outfielders had poor arms and he wanted the stronger-armed infielders making the throw.
Ortiz said he will take his time easing into things. But he thinks Opening Day is going to happen.
“A couple of weeks ago, I started to do drills and stuff and doing good,” he said. “Not 100 percent yet but I was pain-free doing it, which is a good sign. Now the trainers start moving forward with things slowly and tomorrow we’re going to continue doing the drills and stuff.
“The good thing is it didn’t bother me at all. In the beginning, I was a little concerned and later on I was going after it pretty normal. I didn’t have any setback or anything. I surprised myself.
“I’m not concerned about it because we did a whole bunch of stuff. We went back to take an MRI of my Achilles’ and it was pretty normal. Before that, there was a tiny tear so that I was worried about my Achilles’ snapping. That’s not the case anymore.”
Concerning last year, he said, “The way we struggled and not being able to do anything, it was very hard on me. I remember when I tried to get back and my thing got kind of worse, I pretty much tried to give it a try but it didn’t work out. That’s when they had to put me off.
“I was hoping things would get better but it doesn’t work that way. It was hard.”
In retrospect, he felt he wasn’t ready to return.
“Yeah, I wasn’t ready,” said Ortiz. “I thought I was. I was doing some running and stuff. I knew I wasn’t 100 percent but I thought I could survive the rest of the season, but things got worse. I put my career to the side and tried to come back. And I tried to help this ball club that was struggling badly. The doctor told me I could have snapped my Achilles’ running down to second base [on the final play of his season].”
Asked if the Sox got enough help with offseason moves, Ortiz said, “I think they did a good job. It always can be better. Sometimes it’s not what you want and it is what it is.
“If you look at the market this offseason, there wasn’t much you could possibly get. It wasn’t anything crazy out there. They went out and got some good players. We need to get back in and play way better than what we did last year.”
Will Red Sox fans be patient?
“To be honest with you, I ran out of patience last year, and I’m a player,” said Ortiz. “I can imagine the fans, where they’re at. They see what our offseason was like. We went out there and got some of the players to fill where we got hurt last year in those spots.
“We got our bullpen better. Our starting pitching is going to be better this year. As a player, you learn from your mistakes and when things are going bad. We have guys with more experience this year.”
Ortiz took batting practice on Tuesday and was moving around well.
Ortiz was asked whether, given the news out of Miami about more players being linked to PEDs, he feels people will be suspicious of him because he’s playing so well late in his career.
“I don’t know,” he said. “First of all, when I first heard about that, I started saying, us as baseball players, we might be the dumbest athletes out of all the sports and it’s because there’s a history of players doing things like that and getting caught.
“All I can tell you is that I keep working hard and trying my best. I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life. At some point, enough is enough. As long as your name is not being mentioned in a situation like that, it’s OK.”