Baxter Holmes, Globe Correspondent wrote:PAWTUCKET, R.I. - The sellout crowd brayed a mighty, encouraging "Papi! Papi! Papi!" chant as David Ortiz stepped out of the batter's box to gain his composure.
Flashbulbs in McCoy Stadium sparkled like diamonds in sunlight as the cadence proceeded from the packed infield seats to the fans lining the left-field railing down to the berm in left-center, full of fans seated on the grass.
With the count 1-2 and the bases empty, the Red Sox slugger stepped back in and in one violent swing - one that no doubt released some eagerness to play that built over his nearly two-month absence from baseball - smashed a home run to right field that landed in the Toledo Mud Hens' bullpen.
Big Papi is back. At least, his style of play is.
"That's my game," Ortiz said. "To be able to swing like that when I have an injury before that I can't even hold onto my bat, it's a good feeling."
Last night's 15-6 Pawtucket win was the first of Ortiz's seven-game minor league rehab stint. He will return to the Red Sox' lineup a week from tonight when the Yankees come to Fenway Park.
Ortiz will play three more games in Pawtucket (tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday) before heading to Double A Portland for three games and said before last night's game that he intends to finish his minor league stint no matter how well he does.
The slugger hadn't played since May 31 at Baltimore, when he partially tore a tendon sheath in his left wrist. He said there was no pain, and the brace on his left hand was for precaution.
Batting third, Ortiz popped up in his first plate appearance, homered in his second, lined out in his third, and walked in the sixth inning. Manager Ron Johnson lifted him for pinch runner Sandy Madera after the walk.
In all, he saw 21 pitches and made contact on six, while nine were balls.
He said before the game he wanted to work on his timing.
How did he feel afterward?
"I saw pitches. I chased a few high fastballs, but other than that, I was taking those bad pitches. That's how you work on your timing," he said.
When Ortiz swung, it was in powerful strokes, as if he were trying to send a ball across state lines.
"I've been swinging the way I normally do," he said. "That way, if anything comes out, I can feel it and stay away from playing until I get to be fine. But everything came out pretty good."
His home run in the fourth sparked a scoring barrage. The PawSox poured on six more runs in the inning, four in the fifth, and four in the sixth for a season-high total, eclipsing the 14 they scored at Durham May 31. That delighted the crowd of 11,460, fifth largest in Pawtucket history.
Though he said he misses playing at Fenway and that he's eager to rejoin the Red Sox, Ortiz said hearing the "Papi!" chant made him feel at home.
"That's exactly what happens at Fenway," he said. "They're calling your name and it kind of pumps you up, puts you in the mood."
He's back with a bang