Call it a threat, an ultimatum, or a challenge. No matter how Red Sox fans read into this declaration made by general manager Theo Epstein toward David Ortiz at his season-ending news conference, Big Papi plans to respond come April of 2010 and throughout the rest of the season.
“He’s right,” Ortiz told the Boston Herald on Tuesday from an event at the Reebok headquarters in Canton, Mass. “I’ve got to be a force. He’s right about that. It’s all good. Come out next year and do my thing. That’s it.”
He's right. If Big Papi does his thing — which he did after coming out of his two-month funk at the beginning of the 2009 season — then there's no reason why the Red Sox should be shopping around for another big bat. Papi put up serious numbers despite his slow start, coming within perhaps a dozen at-bats of reaching the 30/100 DH quota.
"If I hit two more homers and get one more RBI next year than I did this year [to reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs], what are people going to say?" Papi asked.
Despite his impressive rebound, there's no excuse for Ortiz's miserable start to the season, when he hit .185 with a .287 slugging percentage, one home run and 18 RBIs in his first 46 games. Papi isn't using his 2008 offseason wrist surgery as an excuse, but the slugger is going to use that rehab process as a confidence-builder this time around.
“I’m going to start hitting sooner," he said. "Last year I couldn’t swing until the end of January. But I’m fine. I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to work out and hit in the Dominican [Republic] and get physically strong. Just leave it up to Big Papi. We’ll be fine.”
Papi doesn't plan on making next summer — the final one of the four-year extension he signed in 2006 — his farewell season at the Fens.
“I want to finish my career here,” he said. “I think I still have another three or four good years in me. It’s not like I’m going to play until I’m 50, but I know I can still swing the bat. All I know is last year I had the worst two months of my career and still almost ended up at 30 and 100. People always talk about you getting older and things like that. Time will tell."