- Gordon Edes, ESPN Staff Writer
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"He's not going to help me,'' the Boston Red Sox designated hitter said here Friday morning. "He's going to help this ballclub. He's not going to be allowed to go to the plate and hit for me. I've gotta help myself. Pitchers know that my jersey on the back says 'Ortiz.' They make a mistake, they're not going to get paid.
"I don't know why people go there.''
They go there for the same reason they did when Manny Ramirez was here, when it was common wisdom to say that Big Papi's success went hand in hand with Manny's.
"I led the league three times in walks when Manny was hitting behind me, so what does that tell you?'' said Ortiz, who actually led the league twice in walks (2006-07) and finished second in 2005. "You've just got to work hard, man, and not try to do too much because that's when you get caught up in some [expletive].''
Understand, certainly, that Ortiz is happy to have Gonzalez and Carl Crawford as teammates.
"They fit in good here, they're great kids,'' he said. "They're going to help this ballclub a lot.''
But Ortiz contends that the pressures on him are not any less just because the Sox have added two big bats. He laughs.
"All I know is people on one side worry about you doing your thing, some people on the other side don't think you can do it, and another group of people think you're capable of doing it," he said. "Myself, I think I've got to hold onto the guy with the big old beard in the sky.''
Ortiz laughed again when asked if that's how he pictures God. "That's what we were all taught to believe. In the pictures, He looks like he's from the United States.''
Regardless, Ortiz said he may leave it in the hands of a higher power to get off to a good start this season.
"Whatever happens in April, happens,'' he said. "I can't control that [expletive]. You know what God says? 'What I got for you ain't going to someone else.' If he wants me to be horrible in April, I'm going to be horrible in April. If he wants me to hit in April, I'm going to hit in April. That's it, man.''
But then Ortiz allows that he just might have something to say about it, too.
"My goal is not April,'' he said. "My goal is October. But I'm not going to lie to you, I'm going to try to do my best to hit in April like I hit in June. I hope I can get a [boatload] of hits in April so people can shut the [expletive] up.''
Ortiz is in the final year of his contract after the Red Sox exercised the $12.5 million option they held for the 2011 season. No extension was forthcoming for Ortiz, who turned 35 in November, despite some vigorous lobbying on his part. There is a notion gaining some currency in baseball that the role of DH is changing in the game, that more teams are eschewing the one-dimensional slugger for more versatile uses of the position.
Ortiz isn't buying.
"That's going to be up to them,'' he said, "but when you got a guy who can give you 30 [home runs] and 100 [RBIs], you wouldn't change that for anything. Not that many teams have that guy in that position that can produce. Once you got one, you want to keep him, regardless.''
There's a tendency to downgrade a DH for being one-dimensional -- witness how little support Edgar Martinez got in the last round of Hall of Fame balloting.
"I'll tell you the truth, man,'' Ortiz said, "DH sucks. It sucks. It may be one of the hardest positions to play because if you don't hit, you ain't doing [expletive]. And hitting is the most difficult part of the whole freaking game.
"You know what position players tell you when they DH and go 0-for-4? They say, [expletive] that, I ain't DHing no more. Straight up, straight up, straight up. So people who get a good DH should keep him.''
Ortiz looks around, sees his kids growing up and he realizes he's getting older. He just doesn't feel older on a ball field. Part of that, he said, has to do with how he thinks about aging.
"If you don't feel capable of doing something just because you're getting older, that's up to you,'' he said. "Body-wise, I feel good.''
But while someone like Albert Pujols will play as long as he wants to play, Ortiz said the same probably doesn't hold true for him.
"I'm 35,'' he said, "and people already are bitching about my job.''
No matter, he said, he's just going to go out and play.
"Every year is a challenge for me to come here and do something,'' he said. "Some of us get it like that, some of us get it easier. Man, I'm up for whatever. That's me, man. That's been my whole life, come in and deal with [expletive]. That makes it interesting.''
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
13hAndrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews