With the manhunt for the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect finally over, life may start to return to normal for the community and the Boston Red Sox. Something that should help in that quest is designated hitter David Ortiz, who is rejoining the team and jubilant city from the disabled list.
MLB.com’s Ian Browne first reported that rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket following Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Indians to make room for Ortiz’s activation.
The Boston Globe's Mike Scandura confirmed Ortiz is on his way back to Boston.
Although the Red Sox have not yet made an official announcement, all signs point to him being activated in time for Saturday’s game at Fenway Park against the Kansas City Royals.
He spent the past week rehabbing with Pawtucket, and following Thursday’s game he proclaimed himself ready to the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “I think I go back to the big team tomorrow. “I’m old enough to know what I need to do to keep it compact [his swing]….We were taking our time and just trying to do the right thing. It’s time.”
The left-handed Ortiz had just four hits and six strikeouts in 18 at-bats during his rehab stint, but did blast a solo home run in his final game.
Despite his readiness, he wasn’t able to make his first 2013 major league appearance Friday as hoped because the Red Sox game was cancelled to support the efforts of local law enforcement in their investigation of the bombing suspects.
The Red Sox have gotten off to their hot start primarily on the back of their pitching, as the offense has mustered just a combined .257 batting average and 14 home runs. The return of Ortiz could boost those numbers.
He hit .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI in the 90 games in which he did appear last year. If he can come anywhere close to that kind of production in 2013, placing him back in the middle of the Boston lineup could make the team an even more difficult matchup.
Boston manager John Farrell explained to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber what Ortiz’s return means for the team:
He feels good about where he’s at. To have his presence in the middle of the order certainly speaks for itself, the number of years and the success that he’s had. He gives us the potential to lengthen our lineup even more, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing him in the clubhouse tomorrow.
As Britton reported, Ortiz will hold on to a significant amount of money if he is activated in time for Saturday’s game. His contract calls for his 2014 salary to be cut from $15 million to $13 million if he spends more than 20 days on the disabled list in 2013. Saturday would be the 21st day since he was deactivated.
His return will also result in a domino effect for other players and potentially the Boston community.
Ortiz, entering his 10th season with the Red Sox, is the team’s longest-tenured player and a regional icon. His return at the end of an incredibly emotional week for the city is sure to have a positive impact.
Bradley, who hit .419 during spring training, will return to the minors after struggling to a .097 average so far this season, including going hitless in his last 20 at-bats. He impressed with his maturity, but it appears that a little more seasoning in the minors is needed for the 23-year-old.
Besides Bradley, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes were getting the bulk of the playing time in left field and designated hitter in Ortiz’s absence. They may now get fewer at-bats with another designated hitter on the roster, but perhaps not as few as one might think.
Ortiz told Britton that he will need “some days off once in a while.”
Meanwhile, Farrell confirmed to Lauber that the Red Sox will proceed cautiously with Big Papi. “We’ll use him as our guide, but we’re going to have to balance getting him back into full shape as well as monitoring how much stress that heel can take.”
The switch-hitting Nava has started the season with a .333 batting average and three home runs. He figures to remain above Gomes on the left-field depth chart; Gomes not only started slowly at the plate with a .167 batting average, but is also an inferior defensive player.
There are a lot of details left to figure out, but two things seem clear. David Ortiz is ready to play and his return couldn’t come at a better time for the Red Sox or the city of Boston.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference