BRADENTON, Fla. — David Ortiz said Monday in Fort Myers that while he understands his value to the Red Sox offense, he won’t risk further injury by coming back too soon.
Ortiz tried that last season and suffered a setback he’s still paying for.
“That’s the thing we pretty much are trying to avoid, coming back and not being able to stay in the lineup the way everybody expects me to be,” he said. “I’m going to push it depending on how I feel. I’m going to try to be smart about it. When I go back in, I want to be in. Setbacks are very frustrating.”
Ortiz strained his right Achilles’ tendon last July 16. He came off the disabled list and played against the Royals Aug. 24, collecting two hits and driving in two runs. But he aggravated the injury and did not play again last season.
“I was OK to play, but it wasn’t like I was normal,” Ortiz said. “Some percentage I was feeling good. But the result was I wasn’t good to go.
“I wanted to play. You know how our mind is. I don’t need to tell myself I feel 100 percent every day to play. Seeing the team waiting for me and me feeling all right about playing compared to what I was feeling before, it was like, take my chances.”
Ortiz was limited to batting practice at the start of spring training. When he started running the bases, that led to inflammation in both heels, particularly the right. The Red Sox shut him down March 10 and Ortiz since has been limited to off-field workouts.
Manager John Farrell said over the weekend that Ortiz might take batting practice on Monday. But he did not.
Ortiz has been jogging on an underwater treadmill and doing “all kinds of stuff” with team trainers and therapists. There is no date for when he will return to the field.
Ortiz, whose shorts and T-shirt were soaked after a pool workout, put his foot on a chair and showed reporters that the inflammation is between his Achilles’ tendon and a bone in his heel. The majority of the pain is on the side of his heel.
“[The left heel] was just compensating for other side,” he said. “Once I stopped doing things, it started feeling better right away. But the other one, on the other hand, it’s getting there. It’s just a matter of time.”
Ortiz said his Achilles’ feels fine and the pain he once felt is no longer there. He joked that it feels like it’s a new tendon.
“It’s dark, pretty nice,” he said.
Now there is pain related to the original injury and all his time off.
“Inflammation causes you pain. We’re just waiting for that inflammation to walk away,” Ortiz said. “The setback is pretty much what frustrates me the most. You think you’re doing the right thing to get better and next thing you know it’s like walking backwards. That’s the part of this game right here that I don’t like. I hate playing it.”
As his teammates prepare for the season opener on April 1 in New York, Ortiz waits.
“Even the offseason was really strange. I wasn’t able to do anything because you’ve got to get the therapy five days a week,” he said. “That’s a big part of my frustration. You bust your tail this offseason just to make sure you’re good to go. It’s really frustrating.”
But Ortiz believes he is going in the right direction.
“It seems like it,” he said. “This is something that in time, and I would say doing the right thing, it’ll be fine.”
Ortiz said the season is not defined by Opening Day. His hope is to be fully healthy by the middle of April or early May.
“We’re going to be there. But we’re going to be there at the right time, hopefully,” he said.
Ortiz was asked if he thinks rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. should take his place on the roster.
“I heard he’s a really good player,’’ he said. “I haven’t been able to really watch him because they keep me indoors just doing a whole bunch of things. By the time I finish, the game is over. I talk to him once in a while. I heard he’s got skills. You never know. When you got it, you got it.”
Bradley is 22. Ortiz was asked what he was doing at that age.
“I was hitting bombs in the big leagues,” he said.
Will he do that at the age of 37?
On right track
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is dying to show off his prowess from the right side.
The catcher is a natural righthanded hitter and he says he has more power and is an overall better hitter from that side of the plate, but his numbers tell a different story. Last season, Saltalamacchia hit .170 in 53 righthanded at-bats. So his emphasis this offseason and in camp is to improve the right side or at least unleash his “natural” side.
Problem is, the Red Sox went out and obtained catcher David Ross, who likely will get most of the starts against lefthanded pitching. That likely will leave Saltalamacchia still searching for an opportunity to show off his righthanded ability.
“I’ve been working on it more than in the past just trying to simplify some things,” Saltalamacchia said. “Colby [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn] has been offering some things. I’m naturally righthanded, but if I had 600-700 at-bats you’re not going to have enough at-bats righthanded. I had 50 at-bats righthanded last year so you start to lose that timing. It’s tough to get that when you’re facing some of the tough seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-inning guys in the league. I always felt I can square the ball up better righthanded. My stats are going to be better from the left side because you’re going to get more at-bats. In the minors it was pretty even.”
He quipped, “I have a lot of hits left from the right side.”
Waiting on Drew
Shortstop Stephen Drew (concussion) is not ready to return. “Reports were that he had similar symptoms,” Farrell said. “If there’s no improvement by the end of the day [Tuesday] we’ll have him see Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh.” Farrell said Drew is not feeling any additional exertion symptoms when he does the stationary bike, “but he’s not ready to go to the next step.’’ . . . Franklin Morales threw from 60 feet as he returns from a bulging disk in his back. Farrell said the lefthander will repeat the process at least twice more before advancing to throwing off a mound . . . On the first base/backup outfield job, Farrell likes the competition among Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Sweeney. “On a given day it’s a two-horse race or a four-horse race,’’ Farrell said. “Some separation at times but then good at-bats by Overbay and Sweeney. The defensive versatility is important but we’re going to measure this probably on the at-bats, which will be the overriding issue here.” . . . Farrell said because of a deficiency in righthanded bats off the bench, Ryan Lavarnway and Mauro Gomez still are in the mix for a backup role . . . If Drew starts the year on the disabled list, Jose Iglesias likely will be the starter. Asked whether Pedro Ciriaco could start, Farrell said, “Jose has done a very good job. Reading his comments he feels confident in the box. His work has been outstanding.” Ciriaco should return soon from back spasms.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.