The plan Sunday was to give David Ortiz the day off, and even with the Red Sox in an airtight battle with the Blue Jays, manager John Farrell stuck with it.
“He did come to me late in the game to say that he was available if needed,” Farrell said after Boston’s 5-4 walkoff win. “Fortunately, we got to the point where we didn’t need him.”
Farrell knew Ortiz’s numbers against Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle. In 67 career regular-season at-bats against the lefthander, Ortiz had hit .358 with three homers and 13 RBIs.
But with an open date Monday, the matchup didn’t matter as much as the chance to get Ortiz consecutive days of rest.
“The way he’s feeling and the need for an offday overrides that,” Farrell said. “Knowing we had an offday coming, this one was the one he was hopeful for because of the way he’s felt the last couple of days. It’s just general soreness and it’s not the Achilles’ or the heels specifically. Generally, he needs a day.”
Ortiz has played in 64 of the Red Sox’ 84 games this season. When he returned from an Achilles’ injury that kept him out of the first 15 games of the season, the Sox said they wanted to be diligent about finding opportunities for their slugger to rest.
“We thought it was a good time,” Farrell said. “[Ortiz] has gone about 23 straight for us, which probably exceeds what we thought when he first came back in terms of consecutive games we’d be able to get from him this early in his return.”
Beyond his .317 batting average, 16 home runs, and 57 RBIs, Farrell said Ortiz has shown throughout the season just how healthy he is.
“Not just in terms of the daily activities, but the way he’s run the bases,” Farrell said. “There’s been no hesitation. Couple of triples and stolen bases, things that we didn’t anticipate when he came back. He’s responded to that stress and obviously the presence in the middle of our lineup speaks for itself.”
After starting a throwing program Saturday, Clay Buchholz threw from 75 feet Sunday.
From there, Farrell said, he will begin a more structured throwing program.
“He came out of [Saturday] feeling fine,” Farrell said.
Buchholz hasn’t pitched since June 8, when he injured his shoulder fielding a comebacker.
Jon Lester, who left his start Thursday night because of a stinging sensation in his hip, threw a bullpen session Sunday and is in line to make his scheduled start Wednesday.
Farrell said there were no lingering effects on Lester’s hip.
Shortstop Stephen Drew is still day-to-day with soreness in his right hamstring.
Farrell said Drew did some range of motion activity, but he said there is no timetable for his return. “No running as of yet, but that’s the latest,” Farrell said. “There’s no projected time right now.”
The Sox said they don’t expect Drew to go on the disabled list.
Good place to be
The Sox are the first American League team to 50 wins, and they reached 50 by July for the first time since 2008 and the fourth time in franchise history.
Having navigated through injuries throughout, Farrell said the first-half success shows how much depth the Sox have.
“We’ve been consistent,” he said. “We’ve got a very deep team. It’s been well-documented that there’s guys who need days off and guys that have been missed for periods of time.
“There’s been some inconsistency performance-wise. I think it just speaks to the overall depth of this team. It’s certainly not a milestone, by any means. We’ve got a long way to go. But to me that’s what it means — depth of the team.’’
A year ago, the Sox went into July an just four games over .500. The only thing keeping their 41-37 record from being the lowest rung on the AL East’s totem pole was the Blue Jays’ 40-38 mark. They were 6½ games behind the Yankees for first place, and they would win only 28 games the rest of the season.
“It’s great, it’s nice, but our goal isn’t to win 50 games,” said starter Ryan Dempster. “It’s to go out there and keep building on that.
“To be honest with you, we probably could’ve had a few more because we’ve given away some games. At this point in the season, that’s a nice place to be, absolutely, but we’ve got a long ways to go. We’re not done. We want to keep going out there and winning series and winning ballgames.”
Holt in wings
After being sidelined since June 16 with an oblique strain, Pawtucket second baseman Brock Holt will return Monday. Because of Drew’s hamstring issue, there’s a possibility Holt could be called up as a utility infielder . . . Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hit streak to 11 games with his fifth-inning single. He’s hitting .404 with five doubles, seven RBIs, and nine runs over that stretch . . . Dempster had given up at least one homer in six straight starts before Sunday . . . The Sox sealed their 17th series win, putting them in a tie for the major league lead . . . The Sox are 17-9 in day games.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.