2015-11-18 / Sports

Ortiz reportedly to retire after next season

BY IAN BROWNE
The Associated Press

BOSTON

David Ortiz, the beloved and gregarious slugger who helped guide the Red Sox to their first World Series championship since 1918 plus two more, will reportedly retire at the end of the 2016 season.

The news, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, comes the day before Ortiz’s 40th birthday. USA Today reported that Ortiz will announce his retirement plans today.

The Red Sox have not confirmed the reports.

Ortiz is set to earn $16 million in 2016. Boston holds a club option for $10 million in ’17, but Ortiz will apparently take that out of the team’s hands by retiring instead.

On Sept. 12, Ortiz belted career home run No. 500 at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.

In an interview with MLB.com late in the regular season, Ortiz was noncommittal when asked how much longer he would play.

“I don’t know — it all depends how I feel,” Ortiz said. “To me, age is just a number, but your body catches up on things. I think now I reached another milestone of my career, and it was my goal. I’m not going to lie to you. Now, once again, my focus is on being part of the playoffs toward the end of the season next year. Hopefully we have a championship team next year.”

Ortiz surprised many by how well he performed into his late 30s. In 2015, he belted 37 homers and had 108 RBIs — his highest totals in those categories since 2007.

How did Ortiz continue to perform so well in the latter stages of his career?

“Take care of myself,” Ortiz said recently. “That’s all. You need to have the energy to keep on pushing yourself. That energy comes with taking care of yourself. Eating better, getting your rest and making sure that your body gets all the supplies you need to have energy and be good to go. I keep on going the same way. I haven’t changed much.”

When the Red Sox acquired Ortiz on Jan. 22, 2003, it was on the heels of the slugger being released by the Twins at the age of 27. A platoon player in Minnesota, Boston was able to sign him for the modest price of $1.25 million. Ortiz has signed seven more contracts with the Red Sox.

By June 2003, after the Red Sox freed up a log jam of corner infielders and designated hitters by trading Shea Hillenbrand, Ortiz finally got the chance to play every day.

Ortiz became a star and had a new nickname, “Big Papi” to go with it. He finished fifth in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2003.

But it was the following year that Ortiz became a legend in Boston. With the Red Sox trailing the Yankees, 3-0, in the AL Championship Series, Ortiz belted a walk-off homer in the 12th inning of Game 4. The next day, he supplied a walk-off single in the 14th inning to send the series back to New York.

The Red Sox won Game 7 — fueled by a two-run homer by Ortiz in the top of the first — to become the first team to come back from a 3-0 hole in a postseason series. No other team has done it. Ortiz was named the MVP in that ALCS, and the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.

From 2003-07, Ortiz was a perennial AL MVP Award candidate. Though he never won the award, he finished second to Alex Rodriguez in 2005. In 2006, Ortiz set a Red Sox record by hitting 54 home runs.

Thanks in large part to Ortiz, Boston again won the World Series in 2007 and 2013.

Ortiz turned in one of the best statistical performances of all-time en route to winning the 2013 World Series MVP, hitting .688 (11-for-16) with two doubles, two homers and a 1.948 OPS. The Red Sox were in danger of falling behind the Tigers, 2-0, in the ALCS that year before Ortiz ripped a game-tying grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.

The slugger will be remembered for his big hits and a larger-than-life personality.

When the Red Sox played their first home game after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Ortiz galvanized the city with speech to the Fenway faithful.

Ortiz has played 2,257 games in the Major Leagues, hitting .284 with 503 homers, 1,641 RBIs and an on-base/slugging line of .378/.547.

Before stepping away from the game he loves, Ortiz will try to win a fourth World Series ring.

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