Papi joins Ted, Yaz in Boston's 400-HR club


BOSTON -- Exiting the Boston Red Sox clubhouse Saturday night, David Ortiz carried a black Marucci bat with green lettering.

After Ortiz hit his 450th career homer on June 29 against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Marucci Sports, which makes his weapon of choice, made a commemorative bat for the milestone and sent it to him.

"This one has been sitting around for a while," Ortiz said after Boston's 10-7 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday at Fenway Park. "They'll have to send me a new one."

On Saturday, Ortiz hit a pair of two-run home runs for Nos. 458 and 459 of his career. And he also reached another milestone.

In the bottom of the third inning, he crushed a two-run homer to deep center field for his 400th home run with the Red Sox. He took an 0-2 offering from Houston starter Brad Peacock and drove it into the center-field seats.

With that shot, Ortiz became the 25th player in major league history to record 400 homers for one team. He also became the third Red Sox player to reach 400 with Boston, as he joined Ted Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452).

"To be honest with you, I didn't know I was one homer away from getting 400 as a Red Sox," Ortiz said. "When I came back in, Tommy [McLaughlin], our clubhouse guy, brought me the baseball. What I'm trying to tell you is that, I mean, you don't play the game just to think about personal numbers. You play the game to do it right, and whatever you accomplish is a plus. Like I say, you've got to give it to the fans and what they expect, even if there's some times things don't work out the way you expect, but at least they see you trying."

When asked what it feels like to have his name mentioned in the same breath as two all-time greats -- Williams and Yastrzemski, who played their entire careers in Boston -- Ortiz said: "Old."

He then added, "It's an honor to be up there with those legends. They did an amazing job as long as they played for the Red Sox -- legendary, legendary. You come to this organization to play, you're never expecting your name to be mentioned next to those guys, but it happened. You do what you've got to do, and that's the only way you get there."

Ortiz's second homer of the game -- career No. 401 with the Red Sox -- was a Pesky Special in the bottom of the fifth inning. Peacock delivered a 3-2 slider that Ortiz turned on and deposited around the Pesky Pole for a two-run homer. According to ESPN Stats & Information, at 318 feet, it was the shortest home run by any player in the league this season.

Also, it was Ortiz's 45th career multi-homer game and his 43rd with the Red Sox.

"Every time David comes to the plate, there's a chance we might see a ball go out of the ballpark, and on two occasions tonight that was the case," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Ortiz stepped into the batter's box with the bases loaded, and he delivered an opposite-field, two-run double to give the Red Sox a 9-6 lead. With Ortiz standing on second base, manager John Farrell inserted Corey Brown as a pinch runner for Ortiz. As he jogged off the field, the 37,652 in attendance gave him a standing ovation.

After he disappeared into the dugout, the fans began to chant, "Papi, Papi, Papi" for a curtain call, and he gave it to them by standing on the bottom step and waving his helmet.

"Great. It was good," he said. "That's what you want to see -- the fans enjoying what you're doing out there. The only way they can give you a standing ovation is when things are going really good."

Ortiz admitted he was swinging for his third home run of the game.

"Always," he said. "I'm always thinking about hitting homers."

Ortiz has come a long way since he first arrived in Boston.

When he signed with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to the 2003 season, he had hit only 58 home runs in his six seasons with the Minnesota Twins. In his first season with the Red Sox, Ortiz registered his first home run with Boston on April 27, 2003, at Anaheim. He produced a pinch-hit, opposite-field, solo shot off Angels reliever Mickey Callaway in the top of the 14th inning to help the Red Sox to a 6-4 win. Jason Varitek also hit a solo homer in the 14th inning of that game.

After Saturday's game, Ortiz was asked if he remembers No. 1 with the Red Sox.

"Yeah, I do -- Anaheim," he said. "I was just talking about that the other day when we were [in Anaheim] with a couple of guys."

From the time he hit that first homer in Anaheim until the two shots he drilled out of Fenway Park on Saturday night, Ortiz said he never imagined what his career in Boston would be like.

"No idea, to be honest. No idea," he said. "You play the game, go with the flow because you don't know how long you're going to play. You don't know what your career is going to be like, but the one thing you can control is just come in, play hard, play the game and let God just take care of the rest of it."

It's been a difficult season for the Red Sox and Ortiz. The defending World Series champions remain in the basement of the AL East, and a postseason berth appears unlikely. At the trade deadline, when the Red Sox traded pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey and outfielder Jonny Gomes, Ortiz said it was mentally draining to deal with those losses.

Still, Ortiz continues to do what he does best, and that was on display once again Saturday night at Fenway Park.

"Pride. You need to have pride in what you do," he said. "You've got to make sure that you go 100 percent out there and play your best. The fans come to watch you play, and you've got to give them what they expect."

A few times this season, Ortiz has been criticized for his slow home run trots. On April 9 against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park, it took him 32.91 seconds to round the bases. On July 27 at Tampa, he crushed a home run, flipped his bat and strolled around the bases in another 30-second trot.

Rays pitcher Chris Archer was disgusted and spoke his mind after that game. Like it or not, Ortiz has earned the right to enjoy his offensive prowess and deserves to take pleasure in his artistry with the bat. (When he hit his first home run with the Red Sox in 2003, it took him 23.49 seconds to return home.)

Another interesting aspect of Saturday's offensive display? Ortiz decided to skip on-field batting practice and work solely in the cage.

"Sometimes, you've got to save your hits for the game," he said.

With one more milestone in the books, another big one looms: 500.

"I don't know," he said with a smile. "We'll see."