FORT MYERS — David Ortiz said he spoke up during the Red Sox's September collapse when some teammates were drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games, but he feels people "made it into a bigger deal than it was."
Ortiz, 36, who reported to camp Wednesday, believes the team has learned from its mistakes and is ready to turn the page.
"We have a lot of leaders, a lot of guys capable to change things around; I think that's not going to be a problem," Ortiz said. "Sometimes you caught into some situations and things get out of hand for a minute. If they apologized, that means it's not going to happen again."
Ortiz, whose Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in the wild-card race to the Rays in September, said they should have won the playoff spot by 10 games. "There were a lot of games we just let go during the season," he said. "After last year, I was a little depressed because I was so ready to go to the playoffs, and it didn't happen. At one point during the season, I was like, 'Man, this is the best ballclub I've ever been a part of.' "
Ortiz acknowledged there was a point in the offseason he thought he was "done" with Boston after nine years. He didn't feel like he was a priority. But his agents explained the team had to hire a general manager before dealing with the roster, and Ortiz accepted arbitration before agreeing to a one-year, $14.575 million deal.
"I'm just happy to be here," he said.
And he was happy to hear some oddsmakers listed the Red Sox third in the AL East.
"I like to be the underdog," Ortiz said. "You've got the opportunity to flip things around."
Around the majors
PITCHER ADMITS DRUG USE: Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario said the visa problems that kept him in Venezuela last season were the result of a positive test for cocaine.
Belisario, 29, said he used the drug only once but doesn't remember when he tried it, when he tested positive or who administered the test. He said he must serve a 25-game suspension.
"I don't have a problem with drugs, I'm good," Belisario said. "It was a one-time thing."
HOWARD SWINGS: Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard took his first live batting practice since he tore his left Achilles' tendon during the NL Division Series. "I feel good where I am right now," Howard said. "I don't know what everybody else's expectations were for me to be at this point, but I feel good. Not exactly where I want to be yet."
ANGELS: Right-handed reliever Jason Isringhausen, 39, who pitched for the Rays in 2009, agreed to a minor-league deal.
INDIANS: Right-hander Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, said he hopes to obtain a judicial pardon and return to the team this season. Hernandez, 31, was arrested in the Dominican Republic last month on false identity charges. … A minor-league deal with Jon Garland was cancelled when the right-hander, who is coming back from shoulder surgery, failed to take a physical.
RANGERS: Former All-Star shortstop Tony Fernandez was hired as a special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels.
YANKEES: Right-handed reliever David Aardsma agreed to a $500,000, one-year deal. Aardsma, 30, missed 2011 after hip and elbow ligament replacement surgery and is likely to miss most of this season.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.