Notes: Ortiz returns to lineup
With hamstrings healed, slugger aims to launch long balls
BOSTON -- The Red Sox weren't even finished shaking hands after Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Indians when David Ortiz pronounced himself fit to return to the lineup following three games off with tightness in his hamstrings.
And there Big Papi was on Wednesday night, back in his customary No. 3 slot.
"We better win tonight, that's all I have to say," Kevin Youkilis playfully said to Ortiz as he walked by his locker.
The Sox won all three games during Ortiz's brief absence. By regaining the strength in his legs, Ortiz hopes to start hitting the ball with thunder again.
"I'm feeling better, dog," Ortiz said. "I'm capable of doing things that I wasn't up to."
Ortiz, who is hitting .316 with nine homers and 38 RBIs, has experienced a rare power outage. Entering Wednesday, he hadn't homered in 15 games and 52 at-bats, marking his longest dry spell in both categories since joining the Red Sox in 2003.
Ortiz generates much of his drive from his legs; so it's easy to see the correlation between the recent injury and his transformation, as Ortiz likes to joke, into "Ichiro [Suzuki]."
Another problem is that pitchers have been exceedingly careful with Ortiz this season.
"You can't always hit long balls," Ortiz said. "It's hard to hit long balls, especially when pitchers are painting the black."
Though things haven't come easily for Ortiz from an individual standpoint this season, he is thoroughly enjoying the success of his team, which entered the night with a 36-15 record, tops in Major League Baseball.
Is this the best team Ortiz has played on?
"I'll tell you after the season," Ortiz said. "The best team I've ever been on was 2004."
Perhaps the 2007 Red Sox are capable of similar October heroics.
"We've got a good chance," said Ortiz. "Short series, I'd take my chances against anybody right now."
Timlin working out kinks: Setup man Mike Timlin is still trying to regain his command as he works his way back from right shoulder tendinitis. In the third appearance of his Minor League rehab assignment on Tuesday night, Timlin allowed three hits and a run over an inning of work. He'll pitch again for Pawtucket on Thursday, this with manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell on hand, thanks to the Red Sox having an off-day.
"Kind of the reason he was going back was to repeat his delivery and be a little more consistent," Francona said. "I think [Tuesday] night showed that he's not quite there. I think he feels real healthy. I think he feels like he has pretty good arm strength. But as far as repeating his pitches and his delivery, that's why he's there doing it. I think he's frustrated, but I think he understands. That's probably the best way to put it."
Lugo gets rest: With an off-day looming on Thursday, Francona opted to get shortstop Julio Lugo a two-day break by sitting him on Wednesday night.
Lugo is hitting .125 (5-for-40) in his last nine games.
"Sometimes [being off] back-to-back [games] we think is good," said Francona. "Sometimes we don't think it's good. I think it will be really good for him."
Alex Cora played shortstop in Lugo's absence and batted eighth. Coco Crisp moved up to the leadoff spot.
Ortiz no traveling man: With rumors swirling that the Red Sox are being considered as one of the teams to play a season-opening series in Japan next season, Ortiz wonders what type of fatigue it would cause his team.
"Everyone wants us to go everywhere," said Ortiz. "We have a lot of fans everywhere. Next year they're trying to send us to Japan and China."
Ortiz went to Japan following the 2004 World Series with a group of Major League All-Stars.
"When you go to Japan and spend a week there, it takes you a month to get yourself together," said Ortiz. "You have to adjust to the time over there. When it's night here, it's day over there. It's a day ahead."
Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino is in China this week with a committee of Major League Baseball officials to explore opportunities there for the sport.
On deck: Following Thursday's off-day, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will open up a three-game weekend series against the Yankees when he faces Chien-Ming Wang on Friday night. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.