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Dan Hickling, Globe Correspondent wrote:PORTLAND, Maine - No homers. But no problems, either.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz continued his minor league rehab stint last night in the first of what is scheduled to be a three-game set with the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. And while he didn't hit one out of the ballpark, as he did in each of three games with Pawtucket last week, his night was productive just the same.
Ortiz had two singles and a walk in four plate appearances, then left in the sixth inning as Portland beat the Connecticut Defenders, 8-2, before a capacity crowd of 7,368 at Hadlock Field. He showed no signs, and felt no symptoms, of the partially torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, which has kept him out of the Boston lineup since May 31.
"I think right now, I'm very close to being 100 percent," Ortiz said. "Very close. Not too far away. I know myself really good, and I know when things are going bad, and when things are going good. Being out for that long, I never thought I would be the way I am."
Ortiz walked in his first at-bat against Connecticut righthander Joey Martinez, a former standout at Boston College. Ortiz fell behind, 1 and 2, then worked a walk, checking his swing on an 84-mile-per-hour slider for ball four. He scored on a two-run single by Josh Reddick, who had just been promoted from Lancaster.
Ortiz's second plate appearance was briefer. With Portland leading, 5-1, in the second inning and Mickey Hall on second, Ortiz took two balls, then laced an opposite-field single to left field, moving Hall to third.
Martinez finally retired Ortiz in the fourth inning, getting him to pop to first with the bases empty and one out. The pitch was a 77-m.p.h. curve that might have been too tantalizing for Ortiz to lay off.
"You know you're facing young kids, and the kid I was facing tonight threw me some pitches that are major league pitches," Ortiz said. "He tried to hit the spot inside, and come back with his changeup. Me, as a big league hitter, I'm like 'wow, that's pretty impressive.' "
Ortiz finished his night in the bottom of the sixth with a bit of a flourish, muscling an RBI broken-bat single to right off Nate Bump, who relieved Martinez a batter earlier. Iggy Suarez scored on the play to make it 8-2, and moments later Ortiz was replaced by pinch runner Lars Anderson.
With two more games to get his timing down, Ortiz said his approach is no different now than when his rehab began in Pawtucket last week.
"Not really," he said. "I guess all I am worried about is to make sure my wrist is fine, and keep working on my timing."
The pitching coach of the Defenders is none other than former Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley. Asked how he has been preparing his young hurlers for Ortiz, Stanley's pregame advice was simple.
"I told them to go right after him and see what you can do," Stanley said. "He's a human being. I tell them, don't change your style. Just go up there and challenge him. Try to get him out, then you can always say you got David Ortiz out.
"We'll pitch him differently than [Toledo] did in Pawtucket. The fans didn't come here to watch him walk. Unless the winning run's on second, and there's an open base."
Dan Hickling, Globe Correspondent wrote:PORTLAND, Maine - A cynic might say David Ortiz has found Double A pitchers a bit tougher than their Triple A counterparts.
Or it just might be that the Red Sox slugger is sufficiently rehabbed from the wrist injury that has sidelined him since May 30.
In his second start as designated hitter for the Portland Sea Dogs last night, Ortiz got one step closer to returning to the Sox lineup.
Perhaps as soon as Friday against the New York Yankees.
Facing Double A pitching for the second night in a row, Ortiz went 0 for 4 and reached on an error in an 18-6 Connecticut romp.
Ortiz did not speak after the game, but he did meet the media before the game following a rousing batting practice session in which he peppered the Hadlock Field seats for 11 home runs.
"It's good," he said of the partially torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. "I feel good. I feel better every day."
He had hit safely in his first four rehab appearances, homering in all three with the Pawtucket Red Sox. He was 2 for 3 in Monday's debut with the Sea Dogs.
Ortiz dug in against Connecticut's Garrett Broshuis with two outs and none on in the first and struck out on eight pitches.
After getting ahead, 2-0 and 3-1, Ortiz took a called strike, then fouled off two straight. Then Broshuis came inside with an 80-mile-per-hour curveball, which Ortiz took for strike three.
Leading off the fourth, Ortiz fell behind, 1 and 2, then reached on a strange infield error. His chopper down the line was booted by first baseman Adam Witter and caromed to second baseman Dave Maroul, whose lob to Broshuis - covering first in plenty of time - was dropped.
Ortiz moved to third after Portland loaded the bases, then scored when Argenis Diaz's slow roller was misplayed by shortstop Kyle Haines.
When Ortiz led off the fifth, the Defenders employed the "Papi shift," with Haines moving to the right side of second, where he snared Ortiz's slow roller and threw him out easily.
Ortiz's night ended in the seventh when reliever Adam Cowart got him on a bouncer to first.
With one more tuneup game in Portland tonight, Ortiz has already thought ahead to his return.
"When I get back in the lineup," said Ortiz, noting the Sox' offensive woes during their current West Coast swing, "it's going to look different than it normally is. But we all know how to deal with the bad times and the good times."
In five minor league games, Ortiz is 5 for 16 (.313) with 5 runs, 3 homers, 6 RBIs, 5 walks, and 3 strikeouts.
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