By Tracy Clements, 98.5 The Sports Hub

BOSTON (CBS) – David Ortiz isn’t exactly at the top of his game these days.

In fact, he isn’t even playing the game. Ortiz is on the shelf for the next week thanks to his still-ailing Achilles, which has now led to inflammation in both of his heels.  Red Sox skipper John Farrell said Big Papi’s soreness comes from him ramping up his activity level recently — did anyone else see that coming?

I can’t help but wonder what he was doing in the off-season besides looking for a bigger contract — which is exactly what he got. That leads to further questions, like why the Sox guaranteed him a two-year deal worth between $26 and $30 million? Maybe they didn’t want to hurt his feelings? Maybe they felt they needed a face for the team? Maybe they actually thought he’d play in more than 90 games this season and help them win? But chances are, they were just tired of listening to him whine every June.

Read: More Of Tracy’s Take

Between this contract and the last one, it seemed like it was always about the money with Ortiz. He says he wants to play when he doesn’t have to worry about his injury, but who’s fooling whom? He’s guaranteed $26 million over the next two years; I wonder when he’ll stop worrying about that injury.

Luckily for the Sox, Ortiz will probably spend more than 20 days on the DL this season, and it will save the team a little money in terms of the incentives worked into his new deal. Let’s just hope the owners spend that extra $4 million dollars wisely when the time comes. Unfortunately the Sox are famous for signing contracts that don’t work out, and the recent signings of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are perfect examples. Crawford vastly under-performed and had one of the worst seasons of his career in Boston.  Adrian Gonzalez was productive on the field, but not in the clubhouse. He not only said “it was part of God’s plan” for the team’s collapse (really?) but he was also one of the leaders in the revolt against Bobby Valentine. Money well spent, but at least it’s all off the books now.

Read: Ortiz Admits Opening Day Unlikely

With Papi out, it looks like Mike Napoli will have early pressure to handle the offensive load. Luckily, his much-scrutinized hip doesn’t appear to be an issue and he’s impressed in Boston’s Spring tilts so far. The new Sox first baseman is six-for-14 in his first six spring games, clubbing a pair of homers, a double, and driving in six runs.

Farrell said they’ll use a DH-by-committee without Ortiz, which could open up doors early on for players like Ryan Lavarnway, Mike Carp, Lyle Overbay, and Daniel Nava — just to name a few.

Let’s face it, whining aside, Ortiz is a good DH and nobody’s been able to do it as well as he has in the last few years. But, just like other Boston teams who have relied on their younger or newer players to step up and fill gaps in their own line up, the Sox are now also in the same position.

Potentially losing Ortiz for part of the season may not be a bad thing after all.

A few more Red Sox thoughts:

– I’m optimistic for John Lackey this season. So far in his comeback from Tommy John surgery, the righty looks like he’s in shape, has a new attitude and is eager to pitch. Sure, he’s still a work in progress, but he logged 3 2/3 innings against the Rays Sunday and of the 66 pitches he threw, 41 were strikes. Not bad.

– One thing that needs to happen this season is more leadership in the clubhouse—and that starts with Farrell. He was a good choice and so far has been saying and doing the right things. The Sox targeted and signed a lot of character players this off-season; so here’s to hoping it pays off.

Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.

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