Should Red Sox fans be concerned with David Ortiz?

Big Papi's production will be key for the Red Sox this season...
There is no denying that the Red Sox will need some breaks this year in order to compete for a playoff spot. New acquisitions coming off down years (Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew) will need to regain some of their past success, someone will need to make the next step (Will Middlebrooks), and injuries will need to be kept to a minimum (Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury). If a majority of these things can happen, we could be looking at a 90 win team; however, this projection is taking for granted one very large assumption. Can we count on David Ortiz for another season?

It was not too long ago that fans were claiming the precipitous downfall of Big Papi. He started the 2009 season batting .185 in the first two months before picking it up and "redeeming" the season with a .238 batting average and 28 home runs. Papi again started at a crawl in 2010, hitting .143 in April, before finishing the season batting .270 with 32 home runs. After a great 2011 season, Papi was one of the lone bright spots on the team in 2012...when he was healthy. He batted .318/.415/.611 last year -- his 1.016 OPS was his highest since 2007 -- with 23 home runs and 60 RBI in only 90 games for the Sox.

Players of Ortiz' size do not age well, and players of Ortiz' age are much more likely to succumb to -- or take more to come back from -- an injury. The breakdown of Papi's body will be a concern for him throughout the rest of his career, so even though he plays the least demanding position, we should not expect more than 145 games from here on out. Unfortunately, the breakdown seems to have already started for the DH, as the 2013 season has gotten off on the wrong foot Achilles.
...but can he stay healthy to do so?

The Herald's John Tomase had a series of informative tweets this morning on Ortiz, who recently returned from a an excused trip to the Dominican Republic (for personal reasons). According to Tomase, Ortiz has been able to run the bases, but the real test will be how he feels once he cools down. Farrell did tell the media today that if all goes well, Ortiz could play in a game by the end of next week. Despite this potentially good news, Ortiz is notably not happy with the way rehab has been going on the Achilles that limited him to 5 games in the second half of last year:
"You get frustrated sometimes with these injuries, especially when you're not used to be out for so long. It gets in your head a little bit."
When asked if he would be ready for Opening Day, Ortiz responded:
"We're trying...but injuries are injuries.
Ortiz said that the "tiny" Achilles tear last year has healed, but some calcification remains, which irritates the tendon as it snaps back in forth..."not unlike the wear and tear on a pitcher's elbow."

While it is encouraging that Ortiz feels much better now than he did last year, an Achilles that displays "wear and tear" is disconcerting. My fear is that this injury will nag Ortiz throughout the year, and either cause him to need more rest, or affect his production if he tries to push himself. Papi's bat is as important as anyone's in this lineup, so Sox fans can only hope that his Achille's tear does not re-aggravate, and cause another injury-riddled season.

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