Poker Face: Ortiz is all-in for Red Sox

At 37, Big Papi is adding to his legend by putting up
yet another banner season in Boston (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Like a poker player on the verge of hitting the rail who looks down at pocket aces, David Ortiz is all in. 

After missing 72 games last year as well as spring training and the first 15 games of 2013 with a nagging Achilles injury, Big Papi has gone from being one of the biggest question marks for Boston entering the season to an emphatic exclamation point as the Red Sox gear up for their first postseason run since 2009.

Not only has his prodigious power at the plate returned, but his durability to boot.

On Wednesday, Ortiz played in his 135th game of the season, third-most on the team behind only Dustin Pedroia (158) and Mike Napoli (136). When you add in the 15 games he spent sidelined at the start of the year and assuming he features in all three of Boston’s remaining regular-season games in Baltimore this weekend, Ortiz could have tallied 153 games this season — second-best in his career behind only 2005, when he played in 159 for the Sox.

Granted, Ortiz’s longevity is in large part due to his assignment as designated hitter, but at the age of 37 and coming off a serious injury, there was no guarantee that Red Sox Nation would see the same Papi they’ve come to know and love since he wove himself into the Red Sox tapestry in 2003.

Instead, he's leading the team in home runs (29), RBI (100), walks (76), batting average (.307) and OPS (.956) and is third in at-bats (508), hits (156) and doubles (38) and with a team-high 27 intentional passes, he’s as equally feared and respected at the plate as he’s ever been.

He’s tops among AL designated hitters as well, leading the league in doubles, homers, RBI, batting average, OBP (.395) and slugging (.561). He’s even tied for first in triples among DHs with two and is setting the stolen-base pace with a surprising four swipes — the most since he snatched three in 2007.

On Wednesday in Colorado, Ortiz waxed lyrical about his season to date, and how he’s eschewed the notion he should have taken it easy coming off an injury rather than exhibit his standard “put me in, coach” approach.

“Once I started playing, you’re not going to get me out of there,” said Ortiz. “(Red Sox manager) John (Farrell) has been really good at asking me, but once I’m in, I’m in. I don’t care about anything but playing and trying to win ballgames. I was supposed to play I would say, 20 to 30 games less than what I have. That ain’t me, dog. I don’t buy into that.”

Ortiz is the only remaining member of both the 2004 and 2007 World Series champion Red Sox teams, and seeing Boston miss the playoffs for the past three seasons after reaching the postseason five out of six times since 2003 makes this return to October that much sweeter.

Ask any champion. Once you sample a little taste of glory, nothing else can quite quench the thirst.

“(Losing) drags us all down,” said Farrell. “And to get back to winning again, that’s been fun to watch (David) be at the center of that.”

Twitter: @jan_doh