Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Red Sox-Rays: David Ortiz's Big Papi & Big Pain moments vs. the Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — David Ortiz sat in the visiting dugout at Tropicana Field before a late August game. He laughed that Big Papi laugh. His shoulders shook. His head rolled from side to side. He rested his hands on the knob of his bat, using it as a cane as if to stop himself from tumbling over as he leaned forward.

"You remember that?" he asked. "That was crazy."

Ortiz had been asked about the time in 2006 when then-Rays manager Joe Maddon presented him with a bottle of Jean Paul cologne in hopes Ortiz would stop hitting home runs against his club.

"Such a nice guy," Ortiz said. "So happy for him with what he's doing now."

The two had passed each other the day before at Tropicana Field, and Ortiz told Maddon he smelled good. The next day the bottle arrived at Ortiz's locker in the visitor's clubhouse with this note from Maddon: "You're a special person. Thank you for what you mean to the game."

Ortiz, who already homered twice in the series, hit his 40th that day off J.P. Howell.

And he used the cologne.

"Of course," he said. "All of it."

So began an entertaining 15 minutes with Ortiz, who looked back on his battles with the Rays over his illustrious career.

Ortiz said he will retire after this season. He begins his final series tonight in Tampa Bay. The Rays, with some prodding perhaps, will honor the man who has tormented them over the years.

He's rocked the Rays for 52 home runs (34 at the Trop), including career Nos. 499 and 500 last September off Matt Moore. He homered against them in the 2008 American League Championship Series. He homered twice against them in the 2013 AL Division Series.

"He was definitely, I felt like, the guy who did the most damage against us for sure," former Rays and current Red Sox pitcher David Price said.

It certainly seemed that way.

Ortiz has 50 hits against the Rays as a Red Sox during the seventh inning or later. Included are 15 doubles and nine home runs. He's driven in 37 runs. He's walked 52 times, 16 intentionally.

Overall he's had 42 go-ahead RBI and drove in another 12 that tied the score.

While it seems like it should be more, Ortiz has beaten the Rays just once with a walkoff homer — a three-run shot Sept. 12, 2007 against Al Reyes that gave the Red Sox a 6-4 victory.

Ortiz said he really only remembers his 500th home run. The rest of his big moments have blurred over the years.

•••

Here are some refreshers:

Game 5, 2008 ALCS in Boston:

Ortiz hit a three-run homer off Grant Balfour to cap a four-run seventh inning as the Red Sox rallied from a 7-0 deficit and stave off elimination with an 8-7 victory.

"That was headed right at me in the bullpen," Price said. "Went over my head. That ball got big pretty quick."

Game 2, 2013 ALDS in Boston:

Ortiz homered twice off Price, once in the first inning and again in the eighth.

His slow trot around the bases after the second homer prompted Price to call him out afterward.

"He steps in the bucket and hits a homer and he stares at it to see if it's fair or foul, I'm sure that's what he'd say," Price said afterwards. "As soon as he hit it I knew it was fair. Run."

Price retaliated by hitting Ortiz with a pitch the first time he faced him the following year. More words were exchanged.

The two have since made nice-nice. Price said he has a better appreciation for Ortiz's abilities now that they are teammates.

"I see his preparation, I see his work," Price said. "As good as a hitter as he is, he's probably an even smarter hitter. It's really impressive. He always gets off his A swing. Very rarely does he check-swing. If he swings and he hits it. He either fouls it straight back or he hits it very hard somewhere."

Aug. 27, 2014:

Ortiz hit a three-run homer off Chris Archer in the third inning in the Red Sox's 3-2 win.

When asked after the game about Ortiz's exaggerated bat flip and lazy home run trot, Archer said, "He feels like he's bigger than the game. He feels like the show is all about him."

Ortiz's response: "Whatever, dude. There's always going to be comments out there. He's not the right guy to be saying that, I think. He's got two days in the league, and to be bitching and complaining about stuff like that."

Ortiz said he gained respect for Archer that afternoon, because Archer was echoing what Price said during the previous postseason. Essentially, Archer was sticking up for his teammate.

"He's a good competitor, and that's what a good competitor does," Ortiz said.

•••

There have been big hits and times when Ortiz was hit. There have been strong words and even a peace offering from Maddon that didn't quite work. But one thing remained consistent: Ortiz's respect for the Rays.

"I used to hate playing against these guys. I swear to god," he said. "What they brought to the table was like punches from everywhere. You didn't know what to expect. They made our life miserable."

It began in 2008 when the Rays had their first winning season and beat the Red Sox in the ALCS to advance to the World Series.

"That was something very special," Ortiz said. "I watched the whole thing. I was happy for them."

He offered this on Rays third baseman Evan Longoria: "I respect Longo. That kid is special, man. I respect Longo so much because he brings it every day. And let me tell you, I have always said that you put a guy like that in our lineup, and he will double the numbers he has."

And this on Maddon: "Joe is always going to be one of my favorites, man. One thing that I'm going to miss is being able to play for him some day because I heard so many good things about him as a manager."

•••

Rays first base coach and former centerfielder Rocco Baldelli has seen both sides of Ortiz — as a competitor and as a teammate in 2009.

"He's not a one-trick pony," Baldelli said. "He sees the ball really well. Doesn't expand. Hits the ball to all fields. Hits it hard. I don't know how much I believe in this but it always seems like anytime they need him to do something important in a very important spot he gets it done."

After this weekend, Big Papi won't be a Big Pain for the Rays anymore.

And, believe it or not, he will be missed by those inside the Rays clubhouse.

"I've been able to see all things in the spectrum with David Ortiz on the winning end and the losing end," Longoria said. "It's been a pleasure to play against him."

"He's a supremely talented player," Archer added. "Obviously, he's on his way to the Hall of Fame. His number speaks for themselves. It's been an honor to play in his era, for sure."

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