BOSTON — David Ortiz remains a constant even in a lost season for the Boston Red Sox.
The defense of their 2013 World Series title hasn’t gone anything like the Red Sox would have hoped, but Ortiz has performed well.
The 38-year-old slugger is up near the top of the major leagues in both homers and RBI, with 30 and 93 – and that’s coming on a team that’s been near the bottom of the AL in runs scored most of the season.
Knowing the last-place Red Sox faded out of any playoff contention a while ago, Ortiz just keeps plugging along.
“I don’t look at the motivation side because I know I have to still come in and get my job done,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday morning. “But, on the other hand, it doesn’t feel right. You get prepared to be in the playoffs and you know you’re not going to be. It gets a little crazy. What can you do? Finish what you start and come with the same attitude the following year.”
Ortiz went 1 for 3 with a single off the right-field wall in Sunday’s 8-6 loss to Seattle, but had to leave the game in the sixth inning after the hit. He fouled a ball off his right foot two innings earlier and limped to first on the hit.
“The (X-rays) at this point proved negative,” Boston Manager John Farrell said.
Kelly Johnson, who replaced him, struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth, ending Boston’s eighth straight loss.
“Anytime you lose David Ortiz out of your lineup it’s a hole,” Farrell said. “It’s someone that we miss that’s been a main cog.”
Ortiz, last fall’s World Series MVP, has accounted for around 19 percent of the team’s runs. He recently posted his 10th season with 90-plus RBI in 12 years. He’s seven shy of having his eighth year with 30 homers and 100 RBI with the club, which would move him one ahead of Ted Williams for the most in team history.
He also could become just the second player in history to lead his league in RBI for a team that finished last in runs scored. The other is Wally Berger, who did it in 1935 with the Boston Braves.
Ortiz learned a few years ago that he has to work harder, and said he spends much more time weight lifting – even when his body is tired.
Is he impressed by his season? Nope, he expects it.
“No. I’m not surprised. I’m surprised I don’t have better numbers. I used to have better numbers,” he said. “Age catches up with you. It doesn’t matter how hard you try.”
“You go through injuries. You go through a whole bunch of different things,” he added. “The game is not even the same – they won’t pitch you if you don’t have somebody behind you. I always carried that chip on my shoulder that I can do better than what I have. That’s probably the reason I keep on going.”
A little over a week ago, Ortiz belted his 400th career homer in a Red Sox uniform, joining Hall of Famers Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452) as the only players reach that plateau. He has 461 homers in a career that started with Minnesota.
He was signed by the Red Sox before the 2003 season.
Even the proud Ortiz was at a loss for words when he was asked about possibly joining Yaz and Ted in Cooperstown.
“If I told you that I ever expected to be mentioned right next to those guys that’s (crazy),” he said, breaking into a laugh. “No. You play the game. You’re talking about vintage players. Guys that the game is always going talk about because of how special they used to be.”