FORT MYERS — With the Grapefruit League now well underway, there has been one big piece of the Boston Red Sox lineup missing through the first 14 games.
Literally, the biggest piece.
David “Big Papi” Ortiz, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound slugger that has anchored the middle of the Red Sox lineup since 2003, has yet to make his spring debut after another delay in his rehabilitation from an Achilles injury that limited him to just 90 games in 2012. The Red Sox have not set a timeline for when he’ll see game action.
“This is part of getting back in shape. Its volume and intensity related, so there isn’t any kind of thought of reinjuring or injuring it anymore than what was sustained last year, “ Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Ortiz took part in batting practice and some situational hitting drills before his team’s game against the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park on Friday evening but was held out of running drills that could aggravate the tendon.
“You get frustrated sometimes with these injuries, especially when you’re not used to being out for so long,” Ortiz said. “It gets in your head a little bit.”
The rehabilitation process has been hampered because of the development of calcified tissue at the site of the original injury.
“He’s frustrated by the start and stop type of approach to this, being on a steady incline to being back to full game speed,” Farrell said. “Everybody is going to respond differently to a particular injury.”
Farrell acknowledged that there is no timetable for Ortiz, who hit .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBIs in limited action last season.
“Hopefully, he’ll begin again tomorrow. As (Ortiz) has mentioned himself, there are days we have to adjust at the moment,” Farrell said. “I know David is frustrated by it and we’ll continue to go day-to-day with it.”
“It’s driving me crazy,” Ortiz said. “I’ve got no choice but to wait. I hope it goes away soon so I can get back into action.”
Although, he was able to take batting practice before Friday’s game with no limitations including some booming flies to the bleachers beyond the right field fence, he still has a ways to go to be game-ready. Farrell is optimistic that he won’t need to move to “Plan B” quite yet.
“We haven’t got to that point yet,” Farrell said. “We’ve felt like, even now, with minor league (camp) starting up and the minor league games starting up that we’ll still be able to get the appropriate number of at-bats that he’ll feel comfortable with, provided there is progress being made.”
Should Ortiz not be ready to start Opening Day at Yankees Stadium, expect Mike Napoli see increased time at DH with either Mike Carp, Daniel Nava or non-roster invitee Lyle Overbay seeing additional time at first.
“I know those discussions will take place but we are still hopeful and taking the approach that (Ortiz) will be ready,” Farrell said.
Both Nava and Overbay were in the starting lineup for Boston’s 2-0 loss to the Twins, but neither had a particularly productive night. Nava, who got the start at first, went 0-for-2 with a walk but also struck out in the first inning with the bases loaded. Overbay also went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Boston could have used Papi’s bat since none of the Red Sox (7-7) seemed to have much luck against Minnesota pitchers on Friday night though. Twins starter Mike Pelfrey had another strong outing, going three scoreless while striking out five. Four of those strike outs came on sinkers.
“That’s always my bread and butter, my best pitch, and I thought it was really good tonight,” Pelfrey said. “It was movingand there is going to be days like that and when that thing is good, I’ll be able to throw it 90 percent of the time and get some quick outs.
“Tonight was one of those nights.”
Relievers Brian Duensing, Josh Roenicke, Michael Tonkin and Tyler Robertson completed the 5-hit shutout for Minnesota (8-6) in front of a sellout crowd of 9,529.
Notes: Boston shortstop Stephen Drew was a late scratch from the lineup after experiencing “concussion-like” symptoms following Thursday’s game against the Twins in which was hit in the helmet by a Caleb Thielbar fastballAaron Hicks continued his push to become the Twins’ Opening Day center fielder, doubling off the wall in center and scoring the first run of the game. Hicks is now batting .407 this spring with four HRs and 12 RBIs UP NEXT BOSTON RED SOX (F. Doubront) vs. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (D. Bundy) Where: JetBlue Park When: 7:05 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out Parking: $10 MINNESOTA TWINS (C. DeVries) at PITTSBURGH PIRATES (A.J. Burnett) Where: McKechnie Field, Bradenton When: 1:05 p.m.
Tickets: A limited number of baseline box and grandstand seats are still available and may be purchased at the stadium box office.