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David Ortiz wants to be back, not worried about injury’s impact on free agency

08.27.12 at 2:46 pm ET
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On the one hand, when on the field, David Ortiz has been one of the most productive — if not the most productive — American League players in the batter’s box this year. He’s hitting .318 with a .415 OBP, .611 slugging mark (best in the AL) and 1.026 OPS (tops in the AL), along with 23 homers — still the most on the Red Sox — while underscoring the fact that, at 36, he’s still capable of being an offensive difference-maker.

On the other hand, even is his PRP injection in his injured right Achilles takes, he’ll still have missed roughly a third of the season due to the injury, and so, at 36, teams will ask whether that injury signaled the onset of a decline in his ability to stay healthy enough to play everyday.

Ortiz, however, isn’t sweating the impact of his injury on his free agency. He’ll hope to return for the final weeks of the season following his PRP injection, and then after the season, he’ll get shockwave treatment on the Achilles in hopes of ensuring 100 percent health for next year. With those options, he thinks his free agent market won’t be adversely affected — particularly given the scarcity of elite hitters available on the open market. 

“Today’s days, it’s hard to get good players in the free agency market. Pretty much most of the good players are locked up for years, unless you go out and trade. It’s hard to get a 30-home run hitter,” he said. “I’m not really worried about [how the injury will impact free agency] because it’s not something that I need to go and get surgery. You know what I’m saying? Surgery means it’s different from what it is. My tendon is not the baddest it can be to need surgery or anything like that. But I’ve got to be careful.”

Yet while free agency looms on the other side of his one-year, $14.575 million contract, Ortiz — now in his 10th year in Boston — made clear that he wants to remain with the Red Sox beyond 2012. That perspective, he said, is unchanged by the current struggles of his fourth-place club.

“Through the years, I always keep telling everyone how important it is for me to be part of this organization. This is what I know and this is something I want to be part of,” said Ortiz. “I know we’ve been having a lot of issues through the years, but I always try to be honest with you guys. I know how hard sometimes it can be to perform at the highest level here. Things will get better. I think a lot of it has to do with the way the team is playing at the time. When things are going good, you don’t hear any of it. Hopefully for the years to come, we start performing better and all the negativity and stuff just goes away.”

The Sox face a challenging situation going forward. They gave themselves financial flexibility with the recent blockbuster by the Dodgers, but the team must also now reckon with the need to replace the production of Adrian Gonzalez and, to a lesser degree, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. And Ortiz recognizes that there are few guarantees that the liberated money will position the Sox to reload.

“It’s a 50/50 situation,” Ortiz said. “For the past couple years we didn’t get what we’re looking for, which is winning. We have good players, but things weren’t able to go to the point where we wanted to be. They wanted to give themselves the chance to go into free agency this offseason with some money and get some good players and see if they can make the difference. Is it going to be like that? We don’t know yet. We’ve got to wait until next year to see the result of the players we brought in and how they performed.”

Asked whether he was surprised that Red Sox fans have responded enthusiastically to the trade, Ortiz said he was not.

“I think the fans want to see some changes. We got the fans used to winning, we got the fans used to coming here in October and watching us perform in the playoffs. I think that’s what our front office, our GM and our owners are trying to put together: a ballclub that can compete, a ballclub that brings some positivity and a ballclub that the fans can enjoy watching play out there. For the past couple years, that hasn’t been the case,” said Ortiz. “Why not give them the try, the owners the opportunity to go out there and chase the players that give us the opportunity to win games?”

Ortiz acknowledged that the challenge of building a winning roster can be amplified by the distinct demands of the Boston market. Yet he is hopeful that the front office can find a way to reload for next season, and that he will be a part of the effort to do so.

“Not everybody is able to deal with the game, which is super hard, plus another activity off the field that gets you a little bit distracted. It’s a little hard [playing in Boston]. It’s harder for some others. Some players can deal with it, some others really can’t,” said Ortiz. “Hopefully that was our case, and we can come back next year if I’m still around and do the right thing to win ballgames. I like to win. Winning is good. I know how good that tastes. Hopefully things change.”

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