Red Sox

David Ortiz, Derek Jeter already recognize greatness in Red Sox' Rafael Devers

David Ortiz, Derek Jeter already recognize greatness in Red Sox' Rafael Devers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rafael Devers understands most questions in English before they're translated into Spanish by Red Sox communications manager Bryan Almonte.

But on Friday morning at JetBlue Park, he waited to hear a question about David Ortiz in his native tongue before breaking into a broad smile. A day earlier, Ortiz had said he never leaves the room when Devers bats, which means one of the greatest hitters in Red Sox history considers the 23-year-old appointment viewing.

Devers looked positively giddy at the concept.

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"It's great to hear that, especially from a legend like David Ortiz," Devers said, via Almonte. "He's someone I watched growing up and obviously he's someone I hold in high regard. Knowing that he's watching me, I just try to pick his brain as much as I can. I know the knowledge that he has and passes down to me is very important to my growth."

As the Red Sox ponder a future without Mookie Betts, they take some solace in the knowledge that Devers has not even approached his ceiling, even after a breakout 2019 that saw him lead the league in doubles (54) and total bases (359).

He has certainly caught the eye of Ortiz, the franchise icon who's in camp as an instructor. It turns out he's not the only baseball legend impressed with the young slugger, who officially checked in to camp on Friday after taking a couple of extra days with his newborn daughter in the Dominican Republic.

"True story, his first year they went to play the Marlins," Ortiz said. "I was sitting right next to Derek Jeter. And I asked Derek, 'Hey, which one is the player in the lineup that scares you the most?' And he said, 'Devers.' His first year. And I totally agreed with him because he was fearless. That's when you know that a hitter is going to be dangerous. So, what he did last year, it was not surprising to be honest with you. I saw that coming."

Told jokingly that Devers was only 14 years old last year, Ortiz laughed.

"That's what makes it even crazier," he marveled, "a guy that young figuring things out that quick."

The story of Devers' 2019 is well known. He didn't drive in a run until Game 13 despite opening the season batting third, he didn't homer until May 3, and he finished April on pace for more than 40 errors.

But once he flipped the switch, he couldn't be stopped. He ended up hitting .311 with 32 homers and 115 RBI, and his move to the 2-hole in the lineup led to a team-wide offensive explosion. For his efforts, he finished 12th in the MVP voting and earned one diehard fan who needs no introduction.

"I don't need him to do more than what he did last year," Ortiz said. "His numbers last year were sick. Last year was my first year really watching a lot of games, to be honest with you. I was sitting at home, so of course, I'm going to be watching games more than ever. It seems like every day that guy was doing some damage. Every day. Now I understand why I have people coming to me and telling me, 'Bro, I couldn't wait for you to come to hit. I was always expecting something out of you. Your at-bats were good enough even if you got yourself out.'

"I have the same feeling about him. I couldn't wait for him to come to hit. Because if he gets himself out, he was fighting. He was hitting a rocket at somebody. It was a pitcher making a nasty pitch on him. It was not a giveaway at-bat at all. I saw more than 250 at-bats coming out of him and bro I'm telling you, this guy is on another level."

Devers practically blushes at Ortiz's praise, but says what he has really learned from the future Hall of Famer is the value of consistency and hard work.

"I want to improve on everything," Devers said. "I don't feel like I'm a finished product yet. I want to improve on offense, defense, whatever it is that I can work on every single day because I feel like we always need to keep improving."

The pressure on Devers to replace Betts will be immense, but he's not sweating it, and that's a good thing, as far as Ortiz is concerned.

"Devers, all he has to do from now on is have the same mentality," Ortiz said. "He had a phenomenal year last year, phenomenal. I can't ask him for more than that."


 

David Ortiz holds impressive American League record this century

David Ortiz holds impressive American League record this century

David Ortiz is one of MLB's best designated hitters of all time.

For 14 years, Ortiz played as a member of the Boston Red Sox after the Minnesota Twins let him go. In Boston, Ortiz became one of the game's most powerful sluggers and posted a career average of .290 with 483 homers with the Red Sox.

Given Ortiz's immense success with the club, it's no surprise that he's among the century's best at launching the long ball. According to Boston Sports Info (@BostonSportsInf on Twitter), Ortiz has more home runs this century than any other player in the American League.

Ortiz just edged out Alex Rodriguez (507 homers) for the overall lead though Ortiz did it in 438 more at-bats. Aside from A-Rod, no other player is within 100 homers of Big Papi.

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This is surely an impressive mark and it speaks to just how good Ortiz was during his time with Boston. When adding in his 17 postseason homers, Ortiz hit exactly 500 career homers with the Red Sox and helped power them to three World Series titles during his time with the team. And 93 percent of his homers this century, postseason included, came in a Red Sox uniform.

It may take a while for any player to pass Ortiz for this high-water mark. Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout is probably the most likely candidate to pass Ortiz as the 28-year-old currently has 285 homers in 4,340 at-bats that have all come with the Angels. Trout is under contract with the Angels until 2031 so unless he's traded out of the AL, he seems to be on pace to eventually beat Ortiz.

But that could take close to another decade. And until then, Ortiz will reign supreme on this century's AL home run leaderboard.

10 memorable individual performances in Red Sox home openers

10 memorable individual performances in Red Sox home openers

Today should've been the 108th opener at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox as they were to host the Chicago White Sox to begin their home schedule.

But as we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that as well as the rest of the world. 

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There's still hope that they'll be baseball at Fenway in 2020, but on the day the gates were supposed to open and signal the unofficial start of spring in Boston, let's look back at a few of the Red Sox's most memorable individual performances with some Opening Day Dreaming Delivered by Coors Light.

April 20, 1912

The Red Sox christened Fenway Park by beating their rivals from New York, then known as the Highlanders, 7-6 in 11 innings before 24,000, including Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, grandfather of future president John F. Kennedy, and the Royal Rooters.

Tris Speaker (pictured, 3-for-6, two RBI, game-winning single) and Steve Yerkes (5-for-7) were your hitting heroes for a team that would go on to win the World Series. 

April 12, 1916

A left-hander named Babe Ruth held the Philadelphia A's to one unearned run on four hits and strikes out six in 8 1/3 innings. He went 0-for-2 batting ninth, proving he didn't have much of a future as a hitter. The '16 Sox would go on to win the World Series. 

April 6, 1973

On a day that featured the debut of the designated hitter in the American League, catcher Carlton Fisk, coming off his rookie of the year season, got his second year off to a booming start with three hits, including a two-run homer of Yankees ace Mel Stottlemyre, and six RBI as the Sox spotted their archrivals a three-run lead and roll, 15-5.

(Now, if we could just forget Fisk's three-run, eighth-inning homer for the White Sox in a 5-3 Red Sox loss in the Fenway opener in '81 after Boston let him switch Sox as a free agent that winter.) 

April 10, 1998

Mo Vaughn hit a walk-off grand slam to cap the Red Sox' rally from a five-run deficit off a Mariners bullpen that featured ex-Sox relievers Tony Fossas and Heathcliff Slocumb and future Sox reliever Mike Timlin.

Those that stuck around Fenway when it was 7-2 to start the ninth headed home happy after an 8-7 win on Opening Day. The Sox would go on to make the playoffs at 92-70 but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Cleveland Indians. 

April 1, 2002

Tony Clark, the future head of the MLB Players Association, was a Red Sox first baseman for 90 games in 2002. In the first of those, he went 3-for-5 with a home run and drove in three runs.

The Sox needed all of them in a wild 12-11 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Clark would help the Sox out even more two years later when, as a Yankee, his ground-rule double in the ninth kept Ruben Sierra from scoring from first and ending ALCS Game 5 and with it, the Sox' World Series hopes.

April 11, 2005 

In addition to being memorable for the pregame ring ceremony and banner raising that was 86 years in the making (and for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera being cheered and Alex Rodriguez, pictured, jeered by the Fenway fans for their roles in the Sox' 2004 pennant), the Sox got a strong pitching performance from Tim Wakefield in an 8-1 thumping of the Yankees.

Veterans of '04 Wakefield (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 SOs), Trot Nixon (2-for-3, two RBI) and Doug Mirabelli (two-run homer) started '05 off right.

April 8, 2008

The Sox home opener in 2008 was another banner-raising day that included a tearful Bill Buckner emerging from the Green Monster to a standing ovation to throw out the first pitch.

After the pregame festivities, the Sox rolled to a 5-0 shutout over the Detroit Tigers. Kevin Youkilis went 3-for-3 with two RBI and Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed four hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. 

April 7, 2009

Josh Beckett held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run on two hits and struck out 10 as the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3.

Beckett would go on to win 17 games and the Sox racked up 95 victories that season before being swept by the Angels in the ALDS.

April 8, 2013

Clay Buchholz got another championship season off to a great start as he shut out the Baltimore Orioles for seven innings on three hits.

Daniel Nava's three-run homer provided the offense in a 3-1 victory.

April 13, 2015

Mookie Betts showed off his future MVP form early in the 2015 season with a 2-for-4, four-RBI day that included a three-run homer in the second inning and two stolen bases in the first.

All of that came after he robbed Bryce Harper of a home run in the first with a leaping grab in front of the bullpen fence in right. The Sox went on to a 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals but it didn't portend to good things as they finished 78-84 and last in the AL East. 

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