A number of media outlets (NBC Sports, NESN, ESPN) are reporting that David Ortiz has undergone an MRI on both heels “just to be safe.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell isn’t pulling any punches. “That’s where he’s been feeling discomfort,” Farrell told ESPN. “It hasn’t been in his right Achilles specifically. It’s been overall in both heels.” Ortiz has been unable to run the bases two days in a row without pain since spring training started.
Although Farrell wouldn’t directly speculate on how Ortiz has ended up in this spot, I can and will. Ortiz has pain in his other heel because he’s changed the way he runs to compensate for the gimpy right heel that got him on the DL in the first place shortly after the All-Star break during the 2012 season. This is a dark and slippery slope. If this keeps up, the next things to go will be hamstrings and his back, effectively neutralizing Papi’s ability to drive the ball and hit for power. Given this scenario, with three weeks remaining until opening day Boston needs to seriously start working plan B.
At this point, Boston has options but not great ones when you’re talking about taking a healthy Ortiz bat out of the lineup. Lyle Overbay is a career 270 hitter whose power numbers have dropped precipitously since 2010. Mike Carp is career .255 hitter even more anemic power numbers.
If it comes to it, I would more likely move Mike Napoli to the DH role and Daniel Nava to first base. Nava has quietly been learning first base this spring after pitching his services to Farrell. The other option is to platoon Nava at first base and left field and have Gomes DH against lefties and Napoli against righties. It would give Napoli a break to help manage his health and would give Boston pop from either side of the plate on any given night but would fall apart if Nava gets injured. If Nava were to go down, Overbay or Carp could play first base and Jackie Bradley could get called up and play left field.
“It’s not like April 1 [Opening Day] is a drop-dead date for an entire season,” Farrell said. “So we’re not going to rush and make any decision where we say, ‘You know what? Opening Day is out.’ ” While that’s true, Boston should start moving these pieces around on their chess board if they want to be in the best possible position on April 1.
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