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David Ortiz likes hitting home runs a whole lot more than playing first base

03.06.12 at 12:32 am ET

David Ortiz watches his home run in the third inning of the Red Sox' win over the Twins Monday night. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – At least David Ortiz is honest.

Bobby [Valentine] needs me out there,” the Red Sox slugger said after his team’s 10-2 spring training win over the Twins Monday night at Hammond Stadium. “It’s not my favorite thing to do.”

What Ortiz was talking about, of course, was playing first base. The Red Sox’ second Grapefruit League game of spring training marked the second time the DH has played the field, this time surviving five innings – and two massive pop-ups which he caught cleanly – before breathing a sigh of relief.

“I think I have a couple of more times in me,” he said. “We’ll see.”

The thinking behind Valentine putting Ortiz in the field – which the manager said most likely won’t be reoccurring in the coming days – was to offer a pre-emptive strike if the 36-year-old is pressed into action during interleague play.

The naysayers point to the risk Valentine is running in putting his $14.575 million slugger in harm’s way. But for Ortiz, potential injury doesn’t even factor into the equation. In fact, because of his weight loss this offseason he has managed to survive the extra time on his feet

“I feel fine. It doesn’t bother me at all. Just something you have to get used to,” he said. “I just don’t want to see [Joe] Mauer or [Justin] Morneau hitting a rocket down there and kill me. At least I survived two monster fly balls.

“I still move pretty good at first base, and everything I can catch I can handle. My problem is getting used to that diving thing. The last time I dove on a baseball field was trying to get out of way.”

Not only did Ortiz weather the storm of fielding practice, but he has seemingly started going down the right road when it comes to the chief portion of his game – swinging the bat.

He managed two hits Monday night, including a home run over the right field wall. And in the last at-bat, he narrowly missed an opposite field bomb.

After a few slow starts in spring training (remember Ortiz reminding writers they don’t put spring training stats on the back of baseball cards after starting 0-for-17?) he has seemingly found a groove when it comes to preparation.

“I focus more on working on my mechanics and stuff in spring training and then just doing what I did tonight,” Ortiz said. “The reason why we have spring training, especially for a guy like me, is to get prepared for the season. I tried to put some good swings out there when I’m playing but what I really want to do is make sure my timing, my foot is down on time and I can see pitches and read pitches good and be ready to go for the season.

“I already told Bobby I’m going to do what I did last year, play more, I don’t mind if he sends me on the road or whatever, so I can get some playing time. Last year that helped me out a lot.”

And his new manager is also like he has seen from the Red Sox’ new part-time first baseman.

“I loved him. You know, really, he swung the bat extremely well,” said Valentine of Ortiz’ performance. “He swung at the first pitch, was right on it both times, fouled it off, made the adjustment, hit the ball hard. Fought a popup. Stretched and made the third out on a play, third to first base. Has energy. Is bouncing around nicely. He thinks he needs to gain a little weight because that ball didn’t go out to left field but we’ll keep that thought out of his mind.”

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