CLEVELAND — David Ortiz isn’t very emotional about what will be his final Opening Day on Monday afternoon against the Cleveland Indians.
“I don’t feel any different yet,” Ortiz said on Sunday after the Red Sox worked out in wintry conditions at Progressive Field. “Knowing it’s your last one, I’ll try and enjoy it. I’m just going to play the game, man. You have to move forward.”
Ortiz, 40, will start on Opening Day for the 12th time with the Red Sox. Monday would be his 11th Opening Day start as a designated hitter, the most by any player for any team.
After missing the playoffs for two seasons in a row, Ortiz said he liked “everything” about this Red Sox team, especially new ace David Price.
“He knows how to handle his business,” Ortiz said.
Indians manager Terry Francona, who managed Ortiz for eight seasons in Boston, said Big Papi is one of the faces of baseball.
“He’s got that big smile that when somebody walks in a room, he can disarm you just like that. I don’t care who you are. He’s a big teddy bear,” Francona said. “I think all things considered, because it is his last year, I think he should take the next three games off and just enjoy Cleveland. We’ll honor him at home plate but he should probably not play.”
Monday’s forecast calls for rain or snow in the morning, winds at 20-30 miles per hour, and temperatures in the low 40s. It was 39 degrees when the Red Sox worked out, the players wearing stocking caps and layers of sweat shirts.
Ortiz’s thoughts on trying to hit in such weather?
“Ask me when the cameras are off,” he said.
Old friends reunite
Red Sox manager John Farrell had a chance to spend some time with Francona before the teams worked out. It was Francona who accompanied Farrell to his first chemotherapy treatment last August and the two spoke almost daily in the weeks that followed.
Seeing Farrell back managing the Sox is a thrill for Francona.
“Once the game starts, you want to win so bad you don’t really care who is over there. But certainly seeing him healthy and smiling and laughing is more meaningful than any game we’ll ever play,” Francona said.
“He’s one of my best friends, so I talk to him a lot. I don’t think he ever doubted this would happen this way. I don’t think as his friend I would have ever doubted it, either.”
Francona, who has been in pro ball since 1980, spoke eloquently when asked what Opening Day meant to him.
“It’s one of the most amazing feelings there is,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time because I’m getting older. I’m not sure how something can be the same over and over and over and over again and yet be so wonderful. There’s a lot excitement. There’s certainly some anxiety. There’s probably a small piece of terror. Did we cover everything? Things like that. But it’s the same every year. It never changes. I hope it doesn’t. It’s a great feeling.”
Change in plans
New NESN play-by-play announcer Dave O’Brien was taken off the NCAA Women’s Final Four because of the potential postponement of the Red Sox opener.
O’Brien was initially scheduled to call the semifinal games in Indianapolis on Sunday, travel to Cleveland for the Red Sox-Indians game, then return to Indianapolis on Tuesday for the NCAA championship game. The Red Sox, for now, are off Tuesday.
O’Brien faced a potential conflict on Tuesday and ESPN elected to have Beth Mowins call the entire Final Four.
O’Brien had called the Women’s Final Four for six consecutive years.
The Red Sox announced their roster and there were no surprises. Lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee), righthanded reliever Carson Smith (right flexor muscle), catcher Christian Vazquez (right elbow), and righthanded reliever Brandon Workman (right elbow) were officially placed on the disabled list. Vazquez’s stint was backdated to March 25, meaning he could return as soon as April 9 . . . The Indians purchased the minor league contracts of outfielder Marlon Byrd and lefthanded reliever Ross Detwiler. Lefthander Giovanni Soto and infielder Zach Walters were designated for assignment. Backup catcher Robert Perez has to pass a concussion test to play Monday, which is expected. If he does not, the Indians would add a catcher and hold righthanded reliever Joba Chamberlain off the roster.
A large group of Sox players, Farrell, and several coaches walked over to adjacent Quicken Loans Arena after their workout to catch the Hornets-Cavaliers game . . . Koji Uehara (41) and Blake Swihart (24) celebrated birthdays Sunday . . . Dustin Pedroia is set to start his 10th consecutive Opening Day. He is 16 of 38 (.421) in openers with six extra-base hits and seven RBIs, hitting safely in all nine. Pedroia’s starting streak on Opening Day is the longest for a Red Sox player since Carl Yastrzemski started 13 in a row from 1968-80.
A conversation with David Price, Brian Bannister, Alex Speier, and Peter Abraham: