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Papi visits Red Sox as special assistant

Retired slugger will be in uniform for special assistant role
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Around noon ET on Wednesday, the legendary David Ortiz reported to Red Sox camp in his typically inimitable fashion.

With his cap on backwards, and wearing stylish shades, a black T-shirt, light blue jeans and all kinds of bling, the retired slugger sauntered into Fenway South for the first time as a retired player.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Around noon ET on Wednesday, the legendary David Ortiz reported to Red Sox camp in his typically inimitable fashion.

With his cap on backwards, and wearing stylish shades, a black T-shirt, light blue jeans and all kinds of bling, the retired slugger sauntered into Fenway South for the first time as a retired player.

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It will be a short visit for Big Papi, who will be in uniform for his role as a special assistant through Sunday. He plans on guiding players with whatever advice or information they seek and giving the regular coaches whatever support they need.

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"I'm going to be here for a few days just to see how things work," Ortiz said. "I'm out of the clubhouse as a player, but I've got a lot of my homies right here and we stay in touch, and we need to watch them doing their thing and they always have questions. I try to have an answer."

Ortiz, who is looking perhaps trimmer than when he retired as a player, put on his old No. 34 and took in a few innings from the dugout as the Red Sox edged the Pirates, 4-3.

"I was just out there talking to guys and I felt kind of weird just being in the dugout, basically, but yeah, just said hi to everybody today," Ortiz said.

One of the people Ortiz exchanged pleasantries with was slugger J.D. Martinez, who officially signed with the Red Sox on Monday. Essentially, Martinez was brought in to replace the production lost when Ortiz retired.

The pickup of Martinez is one that has Ortiz beaming.

"We needed some thunder," Ortiz said. "You guys know how I feel about putting thunder in the middle of the lineup. If you want to compete in this division, you have to do that. You guys saw how the Yankees loaded up. These guys ain't playing games, man. We need to try to keep up with that offense and I know we're going to be capable of it."

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And there are parallels between Martinez and Ortiz. The Twins released Ortiz after the 2002 season and he transformed into a star with the Red Sox. The Astros released Martinez during Spring Training of 2014 and he became an All-Star with the Tigers before mashing with the D-backs down the stretch last season.

"His career has basically been like mine," Ortiz said. "You go from underdog to superstar and you don't forget where you come from, and I believe in those types of players. And I know those players come in and don't take things for granted and give their best. So I like having J.D. here."

New manager Alex Cora thinks that Martinez is one of the players who can benefit most from Ortiz being around this weekend. Martinez is in the process of transitioning to a primary DH, which is what Ortiz had to do in Boston in 2003.

"It'll be good for him to connect with J.D. I think that'll help," Cora said. "Talk a little about the DH role, the way he goes about his business. Also, I talked to David two or three weeks ago, right before camp. I went down there to Miami for the alumni weekend, connected with him, talked to him, and I told him whenever you want to talk to them, don't feel like you're stepping on anybody's toes. You're a big part of what we want to accomplish.

"We know how big he is in the history of this franchise. 'So whenever you want to come, come.' I respect the whole thing that he has a family and moved to Miami, and has other things going with the kids and all that stuff, but it's only a two-hour drive so I told him, 'You can come whenever you feel like.'"

Though Ortiz won't be around nearly as much as he once was, he doesn't plan on being a stranger either.

"I think I'm going to see the team up in Boston after this," Ortiz said. "I have a crazy schedule for the rest of the month, but I'll see the team during the season at home and on the road at different times. I don't like to be in anybody's way, but the guys always have questions. I'm always done with whatever questions they have. I'll be there for them."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

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