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Alex Speier

Red Sox should proceed with caution with David Ortiz at first base

David Ortiz stretches to take the throw from pitcher Robbie Ross Jr. to force out Ichiro Suzuki in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

There will not be questions about bat speed.

David Ortiz had a tremendous game on Wednesday, launching an opposite-field homer over the Green Monster and crushing a ball into the triangle just to the right of center for a ground-rule double in the Red Sox’ 6-3 victory over the Marlins.

Ortiz’s performance came against the backdrop of a night in which he played first base. The Sox are now 5-0 this year in games where Ortiz has started at first base, and, with Alejandro De Aza (a superior defender to Hanley Ramirez in left) amidst an excellent run and Mike Napoli struggling, it’s become natural to wonder why the Red Sox don’t employ this lineup more often.


At its core, there is the fact that, as he spoke in the postgame clubhouse, Ortiz sat at his locker in a pose of postgame lower-leg mummification, unable to move from his seat with large bags of ice strapped to both of his Achilles tendons. There’s a reason he doesn’t want to play 1B all the time.

“Too old for that, man,” Ortiz said.

One evaluator noted that even at first base, a player is subject to a number of different kind of movements – bending to dig balls out of the dirt, stretching for throws – that can create a different kind of soreness than what a DH is used to, with the net result being a potentially diminished hitter – particularly given Ortiz’s self-described use of time during the game to prepare for his at-bats by watching video of pitchers in the clubhouse.

In the past three years, the Red Sox have started Ortiz at first on back-to-back days just twice (both in 2013). In June 2012, Ortiz made starts at first on three consecutive days and four out of five. Within the next month, he suffered the Achilles injury that effectively wiped out the duration of his season.


That’s not to say that there’s clear cause and effect … but he’s 39, he’s hitting at a level (on pace now for 28 homers, which would make him just the second Red Sox ever with that many at the age of 39 or older) that makes him a centerpiece of the Sox lineup, and some boats are likely best left relatively unrocked.

Of course, the entire discussion likely will soon become academic, since Dustin Pedroia’s return – whether this weekend or shortly after the All-Star break – will result in a game of musical chairs with Brock Holt and others that will present fewer vacancies at first base for Ortiz.

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