Published February 17, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. – David Ortiz and Carl Crawford took their first swings of the spring. Adrian Gonzalez shouldn't be far behind.
The left-handed stars in a power-packed lineup worked out in camp together on Thursday, all sporting their clean Boston Red Sox uniforms that few opposing pitchers will be excited to see.
Ortiz and Crawford reported earlier in the day. Gonzalez, who has taken part in non-hitting drills for several days, expects to get clearance to swing the bat in about a week once his surgically repaired right shoulder is re-examined.
Add them to Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury — all healthy again after missing long stretches last season — and the Red Sox should produce plenty of runs.
"It will be crazy. You have a lot of good hitters, one behind another," Ortiz said with a smile. "So, I don't think I'm going to be the guy that people are going to have to worry about right now."
Pitchers had an easy time with him in the early part of the past two seasons anyway. He struggled badly, leading to speculation that the Red Sox might even release him. But he rebounded both times with 28 homers and 99 RBIs in 2009 and 32 homers and 102 RBIs in 2010.
At times, though, he wasn't his usual amiable self — the man who walked into the clubhouse on Thursday, loudly greeting and hugging teammates and bringing smiles to their faces.
"I kind of snapped a little bit at the beginning of the season," Ortiz said. "It was because I don't think it was fair after the second game of the season people having doubts on you. ... All I need to do is not think about it.
"I'm not planning on putting pressure on myself as the season starts. I'm preparing myself right now the way I can go through the season with a full tank."
Manager Terry Francona said it was difficult dealing with the early-season slump of a player who had been so good for so many years and was popular with fans.
"I second guessed a lot of nights what to do, what not to do," he said.
Now, having so many good hitters surrounding Ortiz in the lineup should help. Gonzalez feels the same about himself.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to get more pitches in the strike zone to hit and that'll make me a better hitter," Gonzalez said, "but I think for the most part, just being able to have guys on base all the time and having that fifth, sixth at bat in a game is going to help a lot."
The Red Sox could open the season with the first six spots in the lineup filled by Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz. All have hit .300 at least once and Ellsbury and Crawford have multiple 50-steal seasons.
On Thursday, newcomers Crawford and Gonzalez peppered Ortiz with questions as they stood in the outfield while teammates took batting practice.
"It was funny," Ortiz said. "They were asking me about (hitting) approaches and I was like, 'man, nobody has better approaches than you guys.' ... Just keep it simple. I think right now we have more thunder than what we had in the past few years."
Ortiz and Gonzalez should drive plenty of balls into the stands. Ortiz has 291 homers in eight years with Boston, an average of 36.4, while Gonzalez had 161 homers in five years with San Diego, an average of 32.7.
"There's a lot of similarities in our mechanics," said Gonzalez, who feels no discomfort in his repaired non-throwing shoulder and expects to be in the opening-day lineup. "Staying behind the ball, letting the ball get to us, staying on top of the ball. I would say he looks for the ball in. I look for the ball away more. I prefer to drive it to left center. He prefers to drive it to right center."
Both players are in the final year of their contracts, although Gonzalez is likely to sign a long-term deal early in the season. Ortiz also wanted an extension, but the Red Sox chose to pick up his $12.5 million option for 2011.
"That's something that I can't really control," he said. "I want to stick around, but that's what they had on the table for me at the time and we just move on."
Ortiz is a favorite of Boston's passionate fans. Gonzalez must get used to that atmosphere after playing before plenty of empty seats in his home town of San Diego.
He doesn't expect any added pressure to produce for the demanding Fenway Park rooters.
"I'm just going to go out there and have fun and enjoy the fact that it's a packed house and feed off of that energy," Gonzalez said. "How many people are in the stands, that has nothing to do with your mentality of wanting to win each and every game. There's not a game that you can say, 'Oh, we can lose this one.'"
Notes: OF Mike Cameron reported and declared himself healthy after a long recovery from major surgery in late August to repair his abdominal wall, release muscles on both sides of his groin and repair his hip flexor tendon. "I'm about as healthy as I can get," he said. ... Ortiz said the AL East remains tough with Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon joining Tampa Bay and Vladimir Guerrero now in Baltimore. And the Yankees? "They've always found a way to get good players," Ortiz said.