Papi issued a warning to those looking for him to burst out of the blocks.
“I’m not a beginning guy, I’ll tell you that right now,’’ he said. “I’m an end-of-the-season guy. Pretty much my whole career I’ve been like that. Last year was something I don’t even know how to explain. But I’m not focusing on that. At the end of the season, when I sit down at my house, I was proud of myself. I know how to bounce back from that hole that I walked into. I just stayed strong. I had a whole bunch of teammates that had my back when I was struggling.
“For me to do it, get it done once again, it’s not surprising. You guys know me. You know what I’m capable of producing. Everybody knows what I’m capable of producing. I struggle sometimes, but I know how to bounce back. So I’m very excited about this season.’’
It’s good to see him. We’re glad he’s excited. But what if this is the end?
You know what worries me about Ortiz?
Not his 2009, specifically. From June 6 through the end of the season, Ortiz batted .266/.360/.557; among the Red Sox, only J.D. Drew had a higher OPS over those four months.
Not one month or two months, or even the whole second half of the season; Ortiz was an outstanding hitter for four months, and I think we'd be foolish to discount those four months just because the Red Sox faced a few soft pitchers down the stretch.
No, what worries me is 2008. Ortiz wasn't great in 2008, either. Sure, he was hurt. Maybe he was hurt early last season, too. In fact, I think he probably was hurt. I think 2010 will be Ortiz's best season since 2007 and maybe by a lot.
I also think this is the end. Or the end, anyway, of Ortiz's time as an every-day player with the Red Sox who makes $12.5 million per season.
Or maybe just the beginning of the end. The Red Sox have another $12.5 million option for 2011, and if Ortiz comes back with a solid 2010 -- say, halfway between 2007 and 2009 -- he'll be worth $12.5 million almost exactly. You would have to project a slight decline in 2011, but I don't suppose the Red Sox would mind overpaying just a little to keep Big Papi around, particularly considering the dearth of big hitters available on the free-agent market next winter. So let's not start saying our goodbyes quite yet.