BALTIMORE — There was a uniform hanging in his locker during spring training. But David Ortiz rarely had reason to put it on.
As Red Sox teammates went through the rituals of preparing for the season, Ortiz would retire to the trainer’s room for therapy on his sore right Achilles’ tendon. When he did venture outside, his workouts consisted only of batting practice and running drills performed with great caution.
Ortiz never played an exhibition game and started the season on the disabled list. Manager John Farrell frequently cautioned that Ortiz would need regular days off when he returned to manage the injury.
Six months later, the Red Sox have three games left to play in the regular season, starting Friday night against the Orioles, and Ortiz is third on the team with 590 plate appearances. Since he was activated off the disabled list April 20, Ortiz has played in all but nine games.
Ortiz even started six games at first base.
“Once I started playing, you’re not going to get me out,” he said. “I don’t care about anything but playing and trying to win ballgames. I was supposed to play, I would say, 20 or 30 games less than what I have. But that ain’t me, though. I don’t buy into that.”
Ortiz said his foot feels fine. There is occasional soreness but it fades after a day or two. Daily therapy and stretching has kept him on the field.
Ortiz was still in the early stages of recovering from his Achilles’ injury when the Red Sox signed him to a two-year, $26 million contract last fall. At the time, it seemed like more of a lifetime achievement award and a way for the Red Sox to generate some positive news after a miserable season.
But Ortiz proved to be a bargain. He enters the final weekend of the season hitting .307 with a .956 OPS. He has 29 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 76 walks.
“I always back it up,” he said. “As long as I’ve been playing here, I’ve been backing it up. I’m motivated every day. Every day I wake up and I see the light it motivates me. It could be worse. I thank God every day for the opportunity.”
Ortiz is one home run shy of joining Ted Williams as the only players in Red Sox history with seven seasons of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
Ortiz muttered a curse and smiled when he heard that.
“Just try to do my job,” he said.
Ortiz, who turns 38 in November, is signed through the end of the 2014 season. Two contemporaries, Todd Helton and Mariano Rivera, have announced their retirements, and Ortiz said he will have to consider that sometime soon.
“It happens to all of us,” he said. “I know I’m not going to play much longer. I’m going to play as long as I feel good and as long as my body can take it.”
The immediate goal is a third World Series title. After helping lead the Red Sox to championships in 2004 and ’07, Ortiz grew accustomed to playing in the postseason.
“I used to make the playoffs part of my schedule,” he said.
A three-year absence from the playoffs and the embarrassment of last season has him treasuring the opportunity this year.
“Last year was bad,” Ortiz said. “Especially the year that we had, dealing with the injury and not knowing when I was going to be good to go. The playoffs are long when you’re not in it.”
Believe it or not, Ortiz says he’s not sure where his two World Series rings are.
“I never wear them anyway,” he said.
Jake Peavy, who pitched six innings against the Rockies on Wednesday, could pitch an inning of relief on Sunday.
Peavy is likely to be the Game 4 starter in the best-of-five Division Series. If there were a Game 4, it would not be until Oct. 8.
“The toughest thing is maintaining your stamina,” Peavy said. “You can keep the command of your pitches but you have to keep throwing to stay strong.”
The Sox are planning an intrasquad game on Wednesday. Peavy could get some work there, too.
The Sox have started registering fans for a random drawing to purchase tickets to any American League Championship Series or World Series games at Fenway Park. Go to redsox.com to register.
Fans will be notified of their selection for ALCS games via e-mail Oct. 2.
For those not selected in the random online drawing, or those without Internet access, a limited number of tickets will be sold via an automated phone line (888-REDSOX6) beginning Oct. 3 at 2 p.m.
No tickets will be available at the Fenway Park ticket office.
Registrants not selected in the ALCS drawing or those who register after noon on Monday will be eligible for a possible World Series drawing.
Jacoby Ellsbury wore a shield over his right foot on Wednesday to protect the navicular bone that was fractured and caused him to miss 16 games. He had worn a shield throughout his career but there was a gap in the one he used and that’s where the foul ball got him. Now he’s using a different model. Ellsbury also has orthotic soles in his cleats for extra cushion.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.