David Ortiz’s numbers might be lower than usual this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from making history. During last Tuesday's game against the Orioles, Ortiz hit his 23rd home run of the season, and in the process tied a record previously held by Frank Thomas.
Thomas, who played a total of 19 seasons in the American League (16 with the White Sox), retired in 2008 at the age of 40 with 521 career home runs, 269 as a designated hitter. Ortiz's home run on Sept. 8 was his 269th while serving as a DH.
While Thomas was primarily a first baseman, Ortiz has been a designated hitter who occasionally plays first. Since the institution of the designated hitter in 1973, only one DH has made it to Cooperstown: Paul Molitor.
Ortiz, 33, has 312 career home runs. His homer last Tuesday matched his total from 2008, but Big Papi still lags well behind his season average of 35 over the past nine years.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona has been more judicious in his use of Ortiz lately. The slugger did not start the first game of Sunday's doubleheader against the Rays (he later pinch-hit), and has been getting more days off. Francona wants to make sure Ortiz is ready for the stretch run.
The move seems to be working, as Ortiz has been showing signs of breaking out of his slump. He went 3-for-6 in Boston’s weekend's sweep of the visiting Rays and will look to keep it going against the Angels, who come to Fenway for a three-game series starting Tuesday.