Big Papi plans to 'get more involved' with Devers in '23

Ortiz visits camp ahead of Friday's workout to talk about chemistry, playing in Boston

March 3rd, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The most impactful Red Sox player of the 21st century, David Ortiz arrived at Spring Training on Friday and went into a clubhouse devoid of any of the familiar faces he played with at the end of his career.

But that didn’t stop Ortiz from making his presence felt. The Hall of Famer walked to each locker and shook everyone’s hand, even prospects he had never met before.

Ortiz was a unifying force for the Red Sox when he played and he continues to be one in retirement as an ambassador for the club.

When Red Sox manager Alex Cora asked his friend and former teammate to speak to the players before Friday’s workout, Ortiz talked about the importance of chemistry and the privilege of playing in Boston.

“I’ve been around for a minute and this is the perfect time to basically speak to the guys about your experience and what you went through and what this organization is all about,” said Ortiz. “Everything began in the clubhouse with good chemistry, you know, and the guys looking out for each other and coming prepared every day to perform at the highest level.”

After spending the morning workout surveying batting practice and other drills, Ortiz held court with three media members and talked about a variety of topics. Here is a sampling.

Keeping a close eye on Devers

Nobody was more ecstatic than Ortiz when the Red Sox signed Rafael Devers to a 10-year, $313.5 million extension that starts next season.

Ortiz has loved Devers ever since he first watched the lefty slugger as a teenager at the Dominican Academy that the Red Sox run.

Interestingly, Ortiz said he plans on spending more time with Devers going forward. It sounds like some of the conversations could revolve around Devers stepping into a bigger leadership role.

“I'm planning to get a little bit more involved with him, based on my experience, based on him being a Dominican fella,” Ortiz said. “His mentality is like a kid. He likes to go out there and have fun and play the game. The way we get to be raised as a baseball player coming from the Dominican Republic, your priority is just playing baseball. That is your major priority.”

But as Ortiz knows better than anyone, that changes when you become the player who everyone on the team looks up to.

“You start adding things to his [plate] and sometimes players don’t feel comfortable dealing with it. In this case, it’s gotta be different because he’s the face of the organization, the face of the franchise,” Ortiz said. “So at some point you need to start learning how to get there. And that's why the organization is just making sure that happens.”

The 2023 Red Sox

Boston isn’t a team that is impressing the national media. Many publications are likely to pick the Red Sox to finish in last place for a second straight season, which would mark the third time in four years. Ortiz isn’t so sure.

“You know what, I like the underdog type of thing. Not many people pay attention to you, they focus on the big dog,” said Ortiz. “And that's when the underdog shows up and they do what we have done in the past. We’ll see. I hope everybody stays healthy. That's been an issue the past couple of years.”

Missing Bogey

Ortiz admitted it was strange not having Xander Bogaerts around to greet him on Friday. The shortstop signed an 11-year, $280 million pact with the Padres. Ortiz played with Bogaerts in his final four seasons.

“I retired six years ago and then every time I come in [for Spring Training], the first guy coming out and giving me a hug, it was Bogey,” said Ortiz. “Not seeing him around is something that is different. But it’s well known, but that’s the game. It’s a business and I can call myself lucky enough that I played here a long time and I ended my career here. But that’s not the case with most of the players, especially nowadays with all the big contracts and other stuff going on.”

Ortiz was at peace with the fact none of his former teammates play for the Red Sox any longer.

“Actually, that’s nature,” Ortiz said. “Nobody will be playing baseball at my age. There’s only one guy who did it -- Julio Franco -- and I don’t think his prototype is out there anymore.”