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March 03. 2013 9:35PM

Red Sox' David Ortiz struggling to shake injury

FORT MYERS, Fla. - David Ortiz stepped into the box Saturday and began spraying soft line drives around one of the batting practice fields at JetBlue Park. With each successive round, however, those soft liners stiffened. They started one-hopping the fence, and eventually turned majestic. One of his last swings dented the corrugated steel structure beyond the right field fence.

The Red Sox can only hope the performance serves as a metaphor for his season.

It has taken Ortiz some time to ramp up this spring, and even now the uncertainty in his voice is apparent when he discusses the Achilles injury that just won't go away.

Diagnosed as a slight tear last season, it has since healed, but not before leaving an area of calcification behind the tendon that causes irritation every time it snaps back and forth, which, when you're a professional athlete, is a lot.

"Every time you bend that tendon you feel it, and I'm a big boy, you know what I'm saying?" Ortiz said Saturday. "It puts more stress."

Ortiz ran the bases for the second time this spring, and much like his BP session, required a few reps to get going. He sprinted gingerly to first base three times before opening it up and rounding the bag twice on faux singles.

That was supposed to be it for the morning, but he told the training staff he wanted to make the turn and run to second, sprinting hard while stomping the first base bag with his right foot. That's a marked improvement from his last attempt at running last week, which ended with Ortiz feeling discomfort and shutting it down before leaving camp to attend to a personal matter.

"I'm a veteran," he said. "I know how things work. There are some days I feel great and want to be out there, and other days when I don't even feel fine. You struggle with it, but you have to combine the good days and the bad days and try to be in between.

"Last year, when I was definitely out, I was in so much pain, it felt like it could snap at any moment. I had a little tear. All of that is gone. I just have that little bit of calcification, but it's getting better. Before I could barely walk. Now I can run. That means it's going away."

But that doesn't mean it has completely healed. Ortiz acknowledged there's no guarantee he'll be ready for the start of the season, even though he hopes he'll be able to take part in a spring training game this week.

"We're trying," he said. "We're trying. I want to be ready, but injuries are injuries. You want to be back the next day, but it doesn't work that way."

Ortiz can hardly believe it has taken this long to heal. Injured last July while rounding second on an Adrian Gonzalez home run, Ortiz initially thought he'd only miss a few days. He tried to come back in August, reinjured himself on a double, and has basically been rehabbing ever since.

"You get frustrated sometimes with these injuries, especially when you're not used to being out for so long," Ortiz said. "It gets in your head a little bit. That's why you have doctors. They know how to manage this situation."

So Ortiz will continue to be patient. He recognizes how little value there is in rushing back to play in March. But now that April is on the horizon, he's getting a little antsy.

"I want to be sure that when I get back, it's for the rest of the season," he said. "I don't want it to be one week on, two weeks off. That's why we've been smart about how we're approaching things, so when I come back and play, I'm going to get in the lineup and stay there."

Sox lose to Yanks

Ryan Dempster hurled three shutout innings in the Boston Red Sox' 5-2 spring training loss the New York Yankees on Sunday. Mike Napoli homered for Boston. The Red Sox host Tampa Bay today.


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