Big Papi on track for April 19 debut?

Updated: April 11, 2013, 11:07 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Designated hitter David Ortiz will begin a rehab stint with Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday as planned, marking another step in his long and winding road back to the Red Sox's lineup.

Ortiz played in a simulated game Monday in Fort Myers, Fla., and an extended spring training game Tuesday, and reported no issues with the strained right Achilles tendon that so far has cost him 11 weeks of playing time -- the last 10 weeks of the 2012 season, in which he came off the DL, played one game, and then shut it down for the season, and the first week of this season. By late Wednesday afternoon, he was headed north for Pawtucket's home opener Thursday night.

Ortiz originally was scheduled to play in Florida on Wednesday (in fact, Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Wednesday night's game in Boston that Ortiz played in Florida), but he was not at JetBlue Park, according to ESPNBoston.com correspondent Rick Weber.

The 37-year-old Ortiz has told Farrell that he would feel comfortable returning to Boston after 25 to 30 at-bats for Pawtucket, which puts him on track to potentially rejoin the Red Sox for their April 19-21 series against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.

Farrell said the team is leaving the timetable entirely in Ortiz's hands.

"His return date to us is still uncertain at this point,'' Farrell said before Wednesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles. "That's going to depend on David and how comfortable he feels in the box with his timing.

"We will assume somewhere in the 20- to 30 at-bat range would be expected that he'll need."

Ortiz has missed all but one game since injuring his Achilles last July. He began spring training on track to begin the season with the Red Sox, but soreness in his heel kept him out of Grapefruit League action and delayed his return. If he returns by the 19th, he will have missed the first 18 days of the season.

"More than anything," Farrell said, "the last four, five days he seemingly turned the corner. More aggressive running the bases, the way he feels at the plate. He's in a pretty good place, all things considered."

Ortiz has a clause in his contract that increases his 2014 salary from $11 million to between $13 million and $15 million depending on how many games he misses due to the injury.

Ortiz reportedly will make the full $15 million next season if he spends 20 or fewer days on the DL due to the injury. He is making $14 million this season regardless of the number of days he's sidelined. Before being sidelined last season, Ortiz was putting up significant numbers. Through 90 games, he had 23 home runs, 60 RBIs, a .318 batting average and a 1.026 OPS.

Information from ESPNBoston.com contributor Rick Weber was used in this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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