“That’s the enemy of the players—injuries.” — David Ortiz
The observation by the Red Sox slugger seemed particularly apt, given that the Sox are trying to take on a 100-win Angels club despite being at less than full strength. Even if J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett are able to play, there will be questions about whether they will be able to do so at full strength. Nonetheless, the news on all three of those question marks was relatively promising.
Mike Lowell took roughly 30 grounders. He did not have any demonstrable problems moving, but very few balls required him to move more than a half step in either direction. All the same, he deemed the workout “very good” on his way back into the clubhouse.
J.D. Drew moved very well in the outfield, and responded well to both playing on Sunday and the cross-country flight. The team remains encouraged by his condition, and Drew described himself as “pretty confident” that he would be on the field for Game 1. Drew acknowledges that timing could be an issue, but he said that he felt good and saw the ball well in his game on Sunday.
Beckett had a strong flat-ground session (“the ball came out of his hand really well,” said manager Terry Francona) that augurs well for both a long-toss session on Wednesday and a bullpen session on Thursday.
While it is conceivable that Lowell could appear on the postseason roster as a pinch-hitter (particularly given that, even with the questions about Josh Beckett’s oblique, the team still can carry 14 position players), he will not be a designated hitter. Manager Terry Francona made clear that David Ortiz will D.H., and that he would not be comfortable using the slugger as a first baseman, particularly against an Angels team that puts constant pressure on defenders.
Ortiz offered some interesting insights into his most challenging season in Boston. He has had to deal with the twin challenges of a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for nearly two months and the departure of longtime lineup foil Manny Ramirez.
“Manny’s situation was pretty obvious. Both sides had to make a move. Both sides thought Manny needed to go. The team needed to make a move. It was too much at the time,” said Ortiz. But the move that had to happen, Ortiz continues to insist, impacted significantly how opponents approach him.
“It’s not a question,” Ortiz said. “Not having Manny behind you, people are going to make (different) decisions, the managers and pitchers. Thank God Youkilis is getting it done. He’s having a great season.”
Ortiz, on the other hand, had to search for his stroke. He hit .264 with a .376 OBP and .507 slugging mark, as well as 23 homers and 89 RBIs in 109 games. (It’s interesting to note that, over 162 games, Ortiz projected to 34 homers and 133 RBIs. Such marks would likely have shed a very different perspective on his year.) But he feels emboldened after hitting five homers in his final 10 games of the year.
“When I injured my hand, the first thing the doctor told me was that we can either get you in surgery and we won’t know if you can play again this year or not,” Ortiz said. “The other (option) is that we can get you in a cast and you might have a chance to play again this year. Knowing that I’m playing for this team and knowing that we’ll probably be in the playoffs, I decided to get the cast.
“I missed two months. I came back. I was fighting through it. I’d say the last three weeks of the season I started feeling less pain. You saw my swing the last three weeks of the season. That’s me.”