BOSTON (CBS) — There’s been a giant void down at the Red Sox Spring Training complex in Florida this spring.
Something was amiss when the team kicked off their full squad workouts on Friday, as has been the case since most of the team reported last week. For the first time in 15 years, David Ortiz and his booming personality (and bat, for that matter) are not there to lead the way.
“It is strange,” Red Sox principal owner John Henry told reporters on Friday down in Fort Myers. “We miss him at our level.”
It should be no surprise to anyone that Ortiz is missed on just about every level. But Tom Werner said that Ortiz will be back soon enough, just not in the way many fans are hoping for.
Just as other former stars who brought the franchise to the promised land, like Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek, Ortiz will have a job with the team soon enough. He’ll get to pick his title, but for now, the Sox brass is going to let him enjoy his retirement.
“[Ortiz’s next role] remains to be defined, but I know David expects to have a role going forward. I think he feels that it’s probably good to have Spring Training start and not be a presence,” said Werner. “We are talking to him, frequently, and expect him to have a role that he would principally define, but one that will be important.”
Asked if they’ve given Ortiz a blank check just in case he decides to make a comeback to the diamond, both Henry and Werner pointed to the pain the slugger played with throughout last season — and previous seasons. While there’s been subtle hints and jokes that he may be considering a return, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
But that doesn’t mean Big Papi and his larger-than-life persona won’t be down in Fort Myers sometime in the near future. But again, it won’t be in the way many fans are hoping.
“I would hope he would, at some point, come here and address the team about leadership,” added Werner.
“We lost someone who was at the top of his game and was a huge presence. You can say that increases our challenge this year,” said Henry. “But that’s part of life and you move on.”
Everyone is moving on, awaiting Ortiz’s next move. But it sounds like you should expect him to be wearing a fancy shirt and shoes rather than a Boston uniform and cleats when that next move comes about.