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Ortiz on D&C: ‘I would like to end my career here’

03.03.10 at 8:26 am ET
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Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz hung out for a while with Dennis & Callahan at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., to set the record straight about his struggles last season (LISTEN NOW). The slugger talked about looking forward to this season, how much pressure is on him to have a good year, and what it will take for him to make sure he doesn’t struggle out of the gate like he did in 2009.

A year ago, were there any signs that you were going to struggle?

Not really. I’m the guy that always gets ready to play no matter what the situation is. Of course, nobody is going to think about it before it happened, what happened last year and at the beginning of the season. I take that as an experience and I have to prepare better this offseason so I don’t have to go through all that stuff again.

What was the big change for the second half of the season?

I had nothing to lose anymore. It could get no worse than what it was the first few months, and I just walked onto the field one day, trying not to worry about what happened before, and it clicked.

Did you ever think once, it’s over?

Never. Nope. Never. I was going through a bad time, but it was never over for me.

We’ve heard you’re in the best shape of your life.

No. I was in better shape when I was in my 20s. Last year, everything kind of started crazy. I wasn’t doing what I normally do because of my hands, the doctor wanted me to take it easy. And then we had the WBC, going to play some important game that you’re not ready for, and all that kind of the stuff that happened to me off the field that I have to deal with. All that stuff was clicking together at all the same time, and it wasn’t good. But I’m the kind of guy that likes to turn the page and think about what is up, what is next.

I read you said people in Boston jumped off your bandwagon early. Did you feel like that was really the case?

I’m not saying everyone. The fans were great to me. The fans have always been amazing to me in Boston, and they’ve always supported me. I remember, I had an ovation when I hit my first homer like I’ve never had before. I mean, it was unbelievable. I’ll always thank the fans in Boston. They know how much it takes for us to get prepared to play the game and they know how much we care, especially myself, about going out there every game and trying to do something to entertain them. The fans understand that, and that’s why as long as I’ve been here they’ve supported me, especially after a year like last year.

Now, there are some other people, on the other hand, that they tried to change those people’s mind. Saying bad things, coming out with bad comments, saying that you’re old, saying you don’t have any bat speed, saying you don’t do this, you don’t do that. I’ve been here for years. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of superstars in the game going through what I’ve gone through. It can be at the beginning, at the middle, at the end of their career. You wait, see how things go, and all that crap they were talking about me, I’m pretty sure that at the end of the season, they have to swallow it. Because they saw it wasn’t what they were thinking about.

Could this be the final year with the Red Sox?

I don’t see it that way. I’m a guy that I care about what I do. I don’t take anything for granted. The Red Sox know what I am, even knowing what happened last year, I’m a guy that, I put a lot of enthusiasm into what I do. And it’s up to them. I’m trying to say that I would like to end my career here, I would like to play three, four more years, and I would like to finish that with the Red Sox. It’s up to them. I can’t control that.

Would it be difficult to go somewhere else if you had to?

I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve been here for years and I feel like Fenway’s my home. Through the years, that’s what I’ve tried to show to people, what I’m all about, playing at Fenway. But like I said, I’m an employee over here and there’s a lot of things that I can’t control. You go all the way around, you look at all your players, you have franchise players, you have players that come in and get out, you have players that you stick with in up-and-down situations. I don’t know. We have people that they know how to analyze that and they know what’s up.

The Red Sox really went out to upgrade their defense this year. Did you think it was inferior last year?

I think that we have a good defensive team. Through the years, we’ve had a good defensive team. Sometimes, defensively, we take things for granted, and that’s why sometimes we miss some plays. But it’s not like you have bad defensive players out there. When you have guys like [Dustin] Pedroia, [Kevin Youkilis], Mikey Lowell — Gold Glove caliber guys out there, and when you talk about Gold Glove caliber guys at this level, they complete pretty much every play. I doubt that people thought that this team had a bad defense, it’s just that little things that sometimes we get emotional, we didn’t get to complete, and that would make the difference.

You have three guys — Lowell, [Jacoby] Ellsbury, [Jason] Varitek — none of them are complaining when they have every right to say something about their situations.

Chemistry man. Chemistry — being great in this ballclub through the years. I can tell you that right now. Everything has changed, and I’ve seen some differences since 2004. 2003 was my first year here, and pretty much everybody was on their own. That doesn’t exist anymore, everybody pretty much is on the same page, everybody got each other’s back, and nobody wants to be a distraction. We have enough distractions over here to create any more. That’s the reason I believe that everybody on this ballclub, whenever they get the opportunity to play any position, they just try to improve themselves and bring some goodness to it.

Do you remember hearing any boos?

Me? Not at Fenway. Not at all at Fenway. Sometimes on the road, you have to get used to it. You’re not going to get a round of applause everywhere you go.

Do you think you’ll live in Boston when you’re done?

Probably. Pretty good chance. Not year round, but Boston to me has been great, and I thank everyone, and all the fans especially that have supported me as long as I’ve been here. Boston to me is like home, that’s why I try my best to do the right thing when I’m around, because I know I have a lot of people watching me and giving me a closeup all the time.

Is there enough protection for David Ortiz in this lineup?

I don’t know, we’ll see. We have a lot of good hitters, good players. Too early for me to tell you what’s up, the season will tell you, and everybody knows when Papi get’s locked in …

How do you explain your troubles last year in the postseason?

Like I always tell you guys, I’ve been great from my standpoint in the postseason. But postseason can go either way. You can go 0-for-12 or you can go 10-for-12. And that’s why you have never heard me, even when I’m killing the postseason, saying “I’m the man,” or “The postseason is easy.” Of course you have to bring it in the postseason, but anything can happen, it’s such a short and quick time to play, you have to try everything you have, you have to bring everything you have. But like I said, it can go either way.

Would you like to talk about a contract this spring?

I definitely will at some point. But right now, I’m just focusing on bringing some goodness around here, doing my job, making sure everyone is comfortable, making sure everybody knows that I’m not done like a lot of people are saying, and bring it up.

Is it part of your job to make sure Victor Martinez stays?

It’s not part of my job, it’s part of the front office’s job. He’s a good player. He’s a young, talented player, you can get no better than that. Good players, you lock them in, and that’s what the Red Sox are all about. They’ve been doing that this year, it would be out of control for me to say anything like that because they already know it.

Would you be surprised if Victor or Josh Beckett left?

I would be. Definitely.

Compare your workouts this season and last, because Theo [Epstein] said that David has to prepare himself better next season. Did that anger you?

Let me tell you, I’m a grown-up man. I know what my job is all about. I just turned 34, and I know what it takes to perform at this level. Nobody had to tell me what to do, because I’ve been doing this for years. My 12-plus years in the league — I’ve been hanging around this long in this league, it’s because I already know what’s up. Theo has to do his job as a GM, and I believe that he did. In my viewing point, I don’t see that as something negative. I see that as, Papi, we want you to be healthy and prepared to play next year, so get ready.

What if you didn’t hit against lefties?

I have no problem against lefties. I don’t see myself as having problems with lefties. Now, when you struggle, you’re going to struggle against everyone. Plus, you’re a left-handed hitter, you have good lefties in the league, that’s something you have to stick with and work with. Lefties are always going to be tough against lefties. Period. But, I don’t see myself as having a problem with lefties, I just have to stay consistent with lefties, get some good hits against lefties and get some hits. My problem is producing against everybody.

Which guy is most important to have a good year this year? Is it David Ortiz?

Let me tell you. I’m not going to put pressure on myself, because I know this ballclub needs me. But on the other hand, this is a 25-man roster. You focus on one player, you have scouts, you have people giving reports, you have people watching you, watching video from you, watching everything — and I have said this before. If the pitcher can go through you, they go to the next guy. If I get hot, if they feel like I am doing my thing, they’re not going to mess around with me too much. So that’s when you have to put in your mind, you need to have nine men going out there, everybody trying to produce, everybody trying to do their job and move on.

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