Sox On Deck: David Ortiz Makes Ferocious Return to Lineup

Evan Brunell@evanbrunellFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2008

David Ortiz admitted before Thursday night’s International League game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Toledo Mud Hens that he’s “not used” to watching the Boston Red Sox on television.

“When you’re out for that long, it’s a little crazy,” said Ortiz. “I’ve been out for six weeks. It’s not easy because I’m used to playing.”

Ortiz, who’s been on Boston’s disabled list since June 3rd with a partially torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, commenced a rehab assignment with Pawtucket and took a small step toward returning to the Red Sox during a 15-6 romp.

After popping out to shortstop in the first inning, Ortiz jumped on a 1-2 fastball by Virgil Vasquez and lined a shot that kissed off the top of the right-field fence and into the visitors’ bullpen for a home run.

Ortiz’s blast ignited a seven-run inning, which ended when Ortiz ripped a shot to first baseman Fernando Seguiginol.

He completed his night’s work by walking on a 3-2 pitch in the sixth.

Given the ferocious nature of Ortiz’s hacks, it was obvious that he wasn’t holding anything back.

“I’ve been swinging like I normally do,” he said. “If anything happens, I can feel it and would stay away from playing until I get to be fine. Even in batting practice I was trying to swing as hard as I can."

“Everything came out pretty good tonight.”

In retrospect, Ortiz gave an indication of things to come in BP when he hit 11 home runs, including one that bounced halfway up the roof of a concession stand behind the center-field fence (which is 400 feet from home plate).

And when he came to bat in the sixth, he might very well have imagined he was at Fenway Park because the SRO crowd of 11,460 (many of whom were wearing Ortiz jerseys) at McCoy Stadium was shouting “Papi, Papi.”

“That’s exactly what it’s like at Fenway,” said Ortiz. “When they start calling your name, it kind of pumps you up.”

But more important than Ortiz’s feeling like he was at home was the fact that his timing and pitch recognition were better than might have been expected since he’s been idle for 38 days.

“I was fine tonight,” he said. “I saw pitches. I chased a few high fastballs but other than that I was taking bad pitches. That’s how you work on your timing.

“I put a good swing (on the home run). That’s my game. To be able to swing like that when I had an injury that prevented me from holding onto my bat is a good feeling.”

Understandably, expectations are high for Ortiz given his past performance. But he flat-out stated he didn’t feel like he was under any pressure to homer in every at-bat.

“I really don’t feel any pressure because I’m used to playing at Fenway,” he said. “You can’t get any more pressure than playing there. This is fun and relaxing. But if I strike out, it would be like ‘He hasn’t played in a while.’”

But Ortiz didn’t strike out, much to the pleasure of the fifth-largest crowd in Pawtucket history.