Realistic Timetable for David Ortiz Return to Red Sox from Achilles Injury

Jess Lander@@jesslanderContributor IIIApril 1, 2013

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Red Sox's 8-2 victory over the Yankees on Opening Day represented hope that 2013 will leave 2012 in the dust. Still, the Red Sox lineup on Monday was not exactly perfect. One important player was noticeably missing.

No question: If the Sox want a real shot at the division this year, they need David Ortiz slugging balls over the Monster and all other walls.

So when will Boston's beloved designated hitter return to the plate?

When Red Sox spring training opened up, Ortiz was limited to agility drills, but new manager John Farrell insisted that Ortiz would be ready for Opening Day.

Ortiz played just one game since July 16 when he injured his Achilles tendon and still wasn't 100 percent in time for camp.

But Farrell hushed fan panic, stating that Ortiz was expected to appear in spring training games by mid-March. Ortiz too, seemed pretty confident that he was on track.

Well, that didn't happen. 

The Red Sox opened up the 2013 season at Yankees Stadium on Monday and Ortiz was on the 15-day disabled list, acting as an assistant coach to players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and bantering back and forth with former Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis.

He'll be eligible to return on Sunday, but he won't be making an appearance at Fenway anytime soon.

Monday was Ortiz's first time doing anything physical since being shut down due to heel inflammation on March 10. According to ESPN, he said he is expected to start rehab assignments in Fort Myers next week.

I feel really good. I ran hard today out there in front of the doctors and the trainers and it was no problem. I did some sprints, some sharp turning. I'm going to do that a couple of more days, then I'm going to Florida.

If all goes according to plan, Ortiz should head on to Pawtucket for some minor league games and then hopefully be back in the Red Sox lineup by May 1.

But do we believe it? Ortiz's return has been no more than an unfulfilled promise as the number of days since his injury nears 300.

So far, nothing has gone according to plan.

In February, Ortiz was pleased with his progress, stating that any soreness he was experiencing was a "good sore" and that the next step in his rehab, baserunning, should be "easy." He said that in his MRI, his Achilles looked brand new.

On March 2, Ortiz was officially moving on from agility drills and slated to run the bases and then play in a game by the end of the week. To everyone's relief it was looking like full steam ahead.

Then he admitted to experiencing pain in his heels. However, his doctor told him it was "normal," and fans were told not to worry.

By March 10, Ortiz was backed off from all activity and was placed on the DL.

The real test will be throughout this next week. Ortiz may feel fine now, but after a few more days of baserunning, his heels could flare up once again. Don't be surprised if there's another setback before Ortiz reaches Pawtucket.

I predict that Ortiz doesn't get into a major league game until mid-May at the earliest.

But the bigger question is: Will this be something that affects Big Papi throughout the entire season?

Ortiz actually got lucky, in that he didn't completely rupture his Achilles. But regardless, an Achilles injury is never easy to come back from. Just ask Ryan Howard, who was out nine months (about the same amount of time as Ortiz now) with a torn tendon.

The way things are looking, the slugger—who's no spring chicken at 37—could be on and off the DL all season. According to an poll, 49 percent of people voted that Ortiz would play no more than 95 games this year.

Like it or not, it's very possible that Ortiz could be a day-to-day player in 2013. The Red Sox better find the right backup at DH.