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Ortiz still focal point on Red Sox

David Ortiz hits his second home run of Game 2 on Saturday night, an eighth-inning shot that drives David Price out of the game.

David Ortiz hits his second home run of Game 2 on Saturday night, an eighth-inning shot that drives David Price out of the game. JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

ST. PETERSBURG — A day after hitting two home runs in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Rays, Red Sox DH David Ortiz is sitting on a chair near the end of the visitors dugout at Tropicana Field. Dressed in black workout pants and a sleeveless black shirt, Big Papi stands out from his uniformed teammates.

"Papi, where you going, yoga class?" teammate Dustin Pedroia shouts from the infield.

Ortiz blows off the comment. Until it's his turn in the batting cage, he's content to chill. And if Big Papi wants to chill, then that's what he does.

Ortiz, 37, is in his 17th major-league season, his 11th with Boston. He has hit 431 home runs in the regular season, including 30 this season. In 68 postseason games, he has 14 home runs, including his first two-homer playoff game Saturday in a 7-4 win over the Rays that gave Boston a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

With his gap-toothed smile and his big swings, Ortiz has solidified his spot as a beloved figure in Boston. And in the Red Sox's locker room, he is the undisputed leader.

"He's not afraid to speak with confidence in our clubhouse," manager John Farrell said. "I think guys draw from that. Given his tenure here, I think first-year guys are going to look to him for that lead and see how he carries himself. And when he steps up and does what he did (Saturday), I think that further entrenches their confidence in him."

Ortiz started as a first baseman with Minnesota in 1997, but he has spent most of his career as a DH. Since joining Boston in 2003, he has never hit fewer than 23 home runs in a season. His best year was 2006, when he hit 54.

Not just a power hitter, he has a career .287 batting average. Whether it's Fenway Park, Tropicana Field or anywhere else in the major leagues, Ortiz just hits.

"I enjoy hitting everywhere," he said. "That's what I do."

Ortiz's longevity and success are not lost on his teammates.

"Having played against him and now with him, I never knew how smart of a hitter he was," said shortstop Stephen Drew, who played in Arizona before joining the Red Sox this season. "He has one job to do, and it's hard enough to do in this league. But he makes it look easy."

Over the years, the Rays have seen plenty of Ortiz. They know pitching to him is never easy.

"He's got the best hand-eye coordination in the game," said Alex Cobb, tonight's Game 3 starter for the Rays. "One of the quickest bats in the game and the most disciplined (strike) zone. He doesn't chase too much. He's one of those guys that all you can do is execute your pitch and hope he gets himself out."

After Sunday's batting practice, in which Ortiz hit eight straight home runs at one point, he is holding court in the clubhouse. Before addressing the media, he makes sure to put on his purple jacket, gold chains, sunglasses and even a few squirts of cologne.

Though he doesn't mind being the center of attention, he said worrying only about him is a big mistake.

"It's not just one or two guys," Ortiz said. "We've been winning as a group. Teams play us and they think, 'Don't let Big Papi beat you.' It isn't all about Big Papi. It's about everybody. Somebody does something different every night."

Ortiz still focal point on Red Sox 10/06/13 [Last modified: Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:59pm]
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