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David Ortiz returns to Red Sox lineup after 35-game absence

08.24.12 at 6:51 pm ET
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David Ortiz is back in the Red Sox lineup after a 35-game absence. (AP)

The Red Sox are finally getting some good news, as David Ortiz is set to return to the lineup Friday night for the first time since injuring his foot on July 16. Ortiz, who was cleared to play before the game, will be batting in the cleanup spot behind Dustin Pedroia in his first game back.

His return will certainly be a welcome one for a Red Sox team that has missed his presence in the lineup. Before Ortiz injured his Achilles, the Red Sox were 46-44 and their offense produced five runs per game while slugging .441 as a team. Since the injury, the Sox have gone 13-22 and have only produced 4.6 runs per game while slugging .419.

“We struggled,” said Cody Ross. “Any time you lose a player like him you are probably going to go through some tough at-bats. It’s definitely nice to get him back. Just the presence of him in the lineup, the pitchers are thinking two or three batters down the line like, ‘OK, we can’t really pitch around this guy because two batters later I have got to face David.’ Just having that in the back of their minds is huge.”

Before the foot injury, Ortiz had not only been the most productive batter on the Red Sox — he had also been one of the most productive hitters in the American League. Even after missing the last 35 games, Ortiz leads all players who have at least 300 at-bats in OBP (.414), slugging percentage (.609), and OPS (1.024).

Bobby Valentine noted that while Boston missed Ortiz’s bat in the lineup while he was out, the most disappointing thing about the injury was how long it took for him to be ready to return to the lineup.

“I felt the craziest thing with David was initially it didn’t seem like it was going to be very long,” Valentine said. “So with each passing day I think the disappointment grew a little more that we didn’t have him.”

The Red Sox may have him back in the lineup tonight, but his return may be too late to make any difference for the team. Boston sits 13½ games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East and 8½ games behind Baltimore for the final AL wild card spot. Still, Ortiz’s return provides a spark to a team that is all but eliminated from contention in the late stages of the season.

The slugger didn’t have much to say before Friday night’s game, but before he left the clubhouse for batting practice, he said, “You all can sit down and enjoy the show tonight.”

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