FORT MYERS, Fla. — The reflective David.
The team player David.
The opinionated David.
They all showed up at JetBlue Park on Wednesday, as David Ortiz held his first media session of spring training. Looking buff and strong as an ox, Ortiz spoke on a variety of subjects, including the controversial new pace-of-play rules, mainly the one that says the hitter must keep one foot in the batter’s box in the interest of saving time.
Of course, these rules were pushed by a committee that included two of Ortiz’s bosses, Red Sox executives Tom Warner and Mike Gordon.
But Ortiz either didn’t know about their involvement or didn’t care.
He did bring up some good points from the hitter’s point of view.
“Is that new?” the 39-year-old designated hitter asked during a 22-minute, expletive-laced session. “It seems like all the rules go into the pitchers’ favor.
“After the pitch, you have to stay in the box? I call that [expletive]. They don’t understand that when you come out of the box . . . this is not like you go to the plate with an empty mind. When you see guys coming out of the box, we’re not doing it just for doing it. Our mind is speeding up.
“I saw one pitch. What is this guy going to try to do to me next? I’m not walking around because I want my buddies back home to see me. It doesn’t go that way.
“When you force a hitter to do that, you’re out, because you don’t have time to think. The only time you have to think about things is that time. I don’t know how this is going to end up.
“No matter what they do, the game is not going to speed up. That’s the bottom line.”
Starting May 1, batters will be subject to $500 fines for not observing the rule. Asked about being fined, Ortiz said, “I might run out of money.”
He added, “I’m not going to change my game. I don’t care what they say. I can’t do a bunch of stupid [expletive]. They put rules together but they don’t talk to us. Why wouldn’t they ask us questions? We have to do this just because you say so? It doesn’t work that way, buddy. Trust me.
“Every time they want to speed up the game, they come to the hitters. They have to put it on the pitchers, too. We’re not the only ones in the game.
“How about the guy on the mound going like this” — Ortiz moved his head up and down, like a pitcher shaking off signs — “for three hours? I don’t think it’s fair. That’s the bottom line.”
Werner declined comment on Ortiz’s stance, saying, “We’ll see how it goes.”
The Red Sox chairman also said that he is mindful of batters’ routines and rhythms but there is a greater good to the initiative.
Ortiz also talked about defensive shifting and how it takes away so many hits. He believes it reduced his batting average by 30-40 points.
Asked if he would make adjustments, he said, “That would be like saying I’m going to go back to being 20 again. I can’t compete against that. I’m a lefty, so I’m going to hit the ball more this way than that way. It doesn’t matter what I try to do.
“It’s something I would worry about eight or nine years ago, but not now. I’m too old for that [expletive].”
Ortiz has a point, and the issue of defensive shifting has been brought up even by commissioner Rob Manfred. The shifting hurts big, lefthanded pull hitters such as Ortiz, who faced a shift in a major league-high 505 plate appearances last season.
And then there was the topic of old friend Alex Rodriguez. These guys used to be tight. Ortiz would take A-Rod out to dinner when the Yankees came to town and vice versa. Not anymore.
It all changed in January 2014 when A-Rod was trying to sue everybody. In a radio interview, his attorney, Joe Tacopina, said his client wasn’t the only player who used steroids.
“I’m not going to start naming all the other players,” Tacopina told ESPN Radio, “but some of them are God-like in Boston right now, and people seem to forget that.”
Tacopina later denied that he meant Ortiz, but Ortiz said at the time that he was angry, and his relationship with Rodriguez deteriorated.
When the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan asked Ortiz Wednesday what advice he would give Rodriguez, Ortiz’s brief answer spoke volumes.
“Good luck,” he snapped.
The day’s questions and answers started out quietly but built to a crescendo.
Ortiz was fired up that Tom Brady got his revenge against the naysayers.
He spoke about his own conditioning and how he tries to do something different every offseason to get himself through the year.
He said he still has a deep passion for playing baseball (though he seemed distracted during fielding drills at first base).
He spoke about how tough it was last season, going from a World Series winner to a last-place team. He thinks the front office did a good job retooling the team and that there was a lot of talent on offense with the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. But while the front office did its part, he said, “We have to take over as players.”
He said he has no way of knowing how long he can play. He feels good right now, but he warned that can change with any player. As last season wore on, Ortiz’s legs became weary.
“I need to have that anger and cockiness when I’m playing and be who I am so I can play at highest level,” he said. “When that goes away, it’s time to go away, too.
“I don’t have no date, no time, no ideas. We are here today but who knows what can happen at the end of the season?
“Your whole body starts to feel different at my age. Your mind starts to control your body. We all run out of gas at some point.”
He also said he has new respect for the hitters who have reached 500 home runs. As consistent as he has been in his power hitting through the years, he is 34 short of that mark.
Should he get those 500 homers to go with his three World Series championships (.455 average, 1.372 OPS in the fall classic), Ortiz could become the first pure DH to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t think about that,” Ortiz said. “I have no idea about that. I just want to finish my career on a strong note, win another championship. Just want to win, because finishing last is no fun.
“I’m going to play the game the way I always play the game. I’m going to do it the best of my ability. Do it for as long as I can,” said the reflective, team-oriented, and opinionated David Ortiz.