David Ortiz was pounding his first baseman's glove in the hours before his first start at the position since last June. Despite the rarity of the occasion, he was able to take a humorous approach.
"Try not to get hit by the ball," Ortiz cracked when asked what he needed to do when he stepped on the field at Citizens Bank Park in the bottom of the first inning Saturday night.
Big Papi was only kidding and is fully prepared to hold down the fort while Kevin Youkilis takes a seat, at least to start the game. The Sox slugger has made 232 previous starts at the position and knows its importance.
"Even if I know that I don't play out there every day, I gotta take it seriously," said Ortiz, who has committed 21 errors in 1,933 chances in his career at first. "Just because of the fact that I'm not out there every day doesn't mean I don't try to catch the ball.
"I take it very serious, it's part of the game. Like I said, I try my best."
Ortiz did admit that if he played the position regularly it would be difficult on his big frame in the long run. He can feel it in his lower back after bending over for each pitch.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona echoed that thought but indicated that for one night, Ortiz will be just fine. In fact, he may be more focused right off the bat than he would if it was his regular gig.
"It might be easier for him to go out and do it for a day as opposed to a week," Francona said. "I think tonight you're going to see his concentration."
Francona had said before the series in Philadelphia that he would try to get Ortiz into a game. He used Ortiz as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning Friday, but there was more incentive to get him a start Saturday for two reasons.
One, Youkilis fouled a pitch off his leg Friday and was limping after the game. Youkilis is just fine and will start Sunday, but giving the leg some rest cannot hurt.
Second, Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick has allowed lefties to hit .337 against him this year, while limiting right-handers to a .218 mark.
Despite all the logic in the world, however, Ortiz and his mates couldn't help but poke fun at the situation.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia yelled out to Ortiz in the Red Sox clubhouse that the second baseman will handle everything in the air and on the ground, to which Ortiz agreed would be a good strategy.
Ortiz did manage to shoot back at Pedroia, saying he would not take a fly ball from him the way he did with Youkilis in a recent game, knocking the first baseman to the ground.
With that, Ortiz took his rarely used mitt and hit the field.