FORT MYERS, Fla. — Before the Achilles injury that wiped out the final two-plus months of his 2012 season, David Ortiz  was enjoying a season for the (older) ages. At 36, he was posting not just one of the best years of his career, but one of the best ever by a player who was 36 or older. In 90 games, he hit .318 with a .415 OBP, .611 slugging mark and 1.026 OPS. His 171 OPS+ ranked 20th of all time for a player who was at least 36 (with at least 300 plate appearances); only nine players have ever performed at a higher level relative to league average in that age bracket.
Given the fashion in which his performance defied his age, and the fact that baseball is again enmeshed in controversy related to performance-enhancing drugs thanks to the emerging revelations about the Biogenesis clinic in South Florida, Ortiz was asked whether he understood why some observers might speculate that he has found a chemical fountain of youth.
“First of all, when I first heard about [Biogenesis and the connection of Alex Rodriguez  to it], I started saying that us as baseball players, we pretty much might be the dumbest athletes out of all the sports because the history of players doing stuff like that and later on getting caught — we’re talking about six, seven years and probably more going back — so how come in 2011, 2012, there are players still getting caught in the same situation?” said Ortiz. “Like I always say, everyone’s got their reasons, but what I can tell you is I keep working hard and I keep trying my best. I’m not going to be doing this for the rest of my life, you know what I’m saying? At some point, enough is enough. But I think when you work hard, things pay off. I don’t care if people have their doubts about the things you’re capable of doing. As long as your name is not being mentioned in a situation like that, I think it’s okay.”
Ortiz said that, after spending the offseason getting treatment for and rehabbing the Achilles that sidelined him for all but one game after July 26, he expects that he will be fully healthy for the start of 2013. He acknowledged that he is not yet at that point, but he suggested that the original Achilles injury is now healed.
“A couple of weeks ago, I started doing drills and stuff and feeling good. I’m not 100 percent yet but I was pain free doing it which is a good sign,” said Ortiz. “Now the trainers are moving forward with things slowly and tomorrow we’re going to continue doing the drills and stuff but the good thing is that I was hitting and it didn’t bother me at all hitting.running, doing agility drills, at the beginning I was a little concerned. Later on, I was getting after it pretty normal, didn’t have any setback or anything. I was surprised myself.’
He dismissed the idea that there were lingering concerns related to the injury.
“I’m not concerned about it because we did a whole bunch of stuff with my Achilles through last year and we went back and took an MRI, and my Achilles looked pretty normal. Before that, it was a tiny tear there. I was worried about my Achilles snapping,” said Ortiz. “That’s not the case anymore right after I did that [plasma-rich platelet injection] and the shockwave [therapy] and a whole bunch of different stuff the doctor had me doing. It wasn’t my concern once we started doing things. It was pretty much, your mind, how it reacts when you’re not doing something and then you start doing it again so I’m not worried about my Achilles anymore, to be honest with you.’
Ortiz also addressed several different subjects. Among them:
On whether last year was the most challenging of his career: “I think so, man. I think last year watching the games and not being able to do anything, that was something that I never thought of, not playing, was going to keep me awake at night. To be honest with you, the way we struggled and not being able to do anything, it was very hard on me. I remember when I tried to get back and my things got kind of worse, I pretty much tried to give it a try but it didn’t work out. that was when they had to put me off. We were hoping it would get better, you know. that was my hope. It doesn’t work that way. It was hard.’
On whether he tried to return too quickly (when he came back to the majors on Aug. 24) from his Achilles injury: “I wasn’t ready. I thought I was. I was doing some running and stuff. I know that I wasn’t 100 percent but I thought I was going to be able to survive for the rest of the season and things got worse, especially after I hit that double. I got in a lot of pain and I actually put my career to the side trying to come back and tried to help this ballclub that was struggling badly and the doctor told me that I could snap my Achilles running down to second base and you guys know the rest of it.’
On the difference between Bobby Valentine  and John Farrell  as managers: ‘You know, a lot of players have a lot of issues with our manager last year. We have a new manager, a guy who is familiar with the organization, a guy who we pretty much grew up around. That’s John [Farrell],’ said Ortiz. ‘An organization, a team is like the human body. If the head is right, the body is going to function right. If the head is messed up, then the body is going to be all over the place. It seemed like that was part of our situation last year. Guys weren’t comfortable with the manager that we had. Guys were struggling. Even situations that, as a player, you need to handle better, sometimes you get confused and you get caught in a situation where you don’t know how you’re going to react to things.
‘The first thing that our organization did was to go out there and try to fix that. I’m pretty sure that everybody is looking at that as a positive move.” More on that here .
On whether the fans should be patient with the Sox: “To be honest with you, I didn’t have patience last year, and I’m a player. So I can imagine the fans and where they’re at. Like I say, they see what our offseason was like. We went out there and chased some of the players that we think got hurt last year, in those spots, we went out there, and we got our bullpen better. Our starting pitching is going to definitely be better this year. As a player, you learn from your mistakes and you learn from things going bad. We have guys with more experience this year, and the hope is that, as a fan, you look at them and ‘Well, we lose a guy like Will Middlebrooks last year, he got injured, but he’s a really good player and he’s going to be healthy this year.’ Myself, I was having a good season and I got injured. Let’s hope Papi’s better this year. Things like that. Those are the little things that as a fan you look at. We’re going to have a healthy team next year. We’ve got a closer, we’ve got a leadoff hitter, we have a middle of the lineup guy. Those are the things that as a fan you look at and go, ‘Oh, let’s see how the season goes.”
On the return of Pedro Martinez  to the Red Sox  as a special assistant to the GM: “Those are the things that gives the fans hope. You know that when you add a guy like Pedro to the organization, later on, if I’m a fan, we’d look at it as, okay, they’re going back to those days when we were winning games, and it’s because Pedro is a guy that, I’m a hitter and I learned so many things from Pedro when we played together. Even when he wasn’t here, there was a time when Pedro called me.
“Pedro is baseball smart. When we played together, Pedro would tell me, ‘Hey, this guy is going to throw you a changeup, he’s going to try to get you out on a change up, so why not go and sit on it?’ I’m like, ‘I’m talking to the master, you know what I’m saying?’ So I would go out there, sit on that pitch, the guy would throw it to me and I’d hit a homer. I’m walking around the bases thinking, ‘How did he know that?’ But that was Pedro. Pedro had a different view of the game than a lot of players. Pedro wasn’t a 6-5 guy with an amazing body, but Pedro knew how to keep a hitter off balance when he was pitching. That’s why he was one of the greatest. Pedro, the same way he was able to talk to a pitcher, he was able to talk to a hitter. He did it with me, he did it with Manny, he did it with a lot of guys. Seeing Pedro coming back to the organization, it’s a plus. It’s a super-plus. It’s because Pedro sees a lot of things. It seems like he’s watching the game with six eyes instead of two. He sees things that some other people are not able to.”