No matter what he did to recuperate from the strained right Achilles’ tendon that landed him on the disabled list July 17, David Ortiz knew his return would be based not on his ability to clobber a baseball, but on how he was able to run the bases.
Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park, the Red Sox designated hitter cleared that final hurdle, fueling optimism that he would be activated for Friday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals.
“It looked like David got through everything perfectly today,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said before Thursday night’s 14-13 loss that wrapped up the three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels.
“He had run sprints and done other things. Today, he ran the bases. We’re going to see how he gets through it. If he gets through it, we’re planning on hopefully activating him tomorrow.’’
“I feel OK,” said Ortiz, who also took batting practice with the team. “I’m not really ready, but I think I can play like this and hopefully continue improving.’’
Asked if he would be activated Friday, Ortiz said, “Maybe, maybe. We got to see how I’m feeling.”
Ortiz said last week in Baltimore that he would likely have to deal with some pain when he returned.
“It’s better, but it’s not as painful,’’ Ortiz said. “I’m not going to stop doing things. I’m not going to be back to normal, so hopefully it doesn’t get worse.’’
Ortiz was able to walk pain-free, “which is the reason I’m able to run now,’’ he said.
The Sox are 13-22 in his absence. Ten players have filled the DH slot in that time, combining to hit .235 (32 of 136) with no home runs and eight RBIs.
The Sox averaged 5.0 runs per game before Ortiz was hurt. Without Ortiz, they are averaging 4.6.
“When I’m hitting, it’s fine,’’ said Ortiz, who is batting .316 with a 23 homers, a team high, and 58 RBIs. “The problem is how you feel after you run, especially after you cool off.
“Everything pretty much feels the same right now. When you’re running without intensity, like the intensity you have in the game, it’s a whole different story. Hopefully, it doesn’t make any difference.’’
Ortiz spoke about other topics, saying he was in full support of Major League Baseball’s drug testing program in the wake of the 50-game suspensions to San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera and Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon, both of whom tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
“I believe in our drug testing even more than I did when we first started it,’’ said Ortiz, who stated that he has been subjected to testing two or three times this season.
Ortiz said he would not stand in judgment of Cabrera or Colon.
“Whatever you do, you do if you have a reason to do it,” Ortiz said. “Bottom line is, you got to be ready for the results. What they’ve been into the last couple of weeks has got to be a nightmare for them, for their family, their career.
“Our drug program is legit. You don’t get away with [expletive], and if you see the way they test you, it tells you a lot.’’
Ortiz was one of four Sox players to attend Johnny Pesky’s funeral on the off day Monday. The sparse player attendance has been criticized.
“I can tell you why I showed up: I just had a friend who passed away and I wanted to be there for him and his family,’’ Ortiz said.
Said Valentine, “I think it’s very insulting to the Pesky family for people to be thinking that an organization that loved him so much did anything other than the right thing. That’s my answer to that.’’
Asked if more of his teammates should have attended, Ortiz replied, “It was probably the best thing to do, but, like I say, everybody has his opinion on the thing to do. I’m nobody to tell you who should or shouldn’t.
“Hopefully people will stop making a big deal about it. We don’t need that right now. We just need to continue playing and focus in on trying to win some games so we can go to the playoffs.’’