David Ortiz could play next week

Jim Rogash

Ortiz hasn't picked up a bat in a game situation since last August, but that could change as soon as next week if his heel is up to it

David Ortiz played one game between his Achilles injury and the end of the 2012 season. He then proceeded to play exactly zero games during spring training, as he dealt with inflammation in his heels once his Achilles stopped being a problem. He'll take the next little step soon, with Scott Lauber reporting that Ortiz's heels feel "more stable" than they had previously, when setbacks kept him from progressing in his recovery.

Rob Bradford published a little more from that quote over at WEEI:

"Feeling good, very good," he said. "I'm at the point right now that it's more stable than what it used to be. That's good. Seems like we're moving forward."

What does this mean? According to Lauber, Ortiz could play in rehab games next week. Ortiz won't just drop back into the Red Sox lineup, as he is nearly two months behind in terms of getting his swings in and his timing set -- that's why you see Jackie Bradley Jr. making his major-league debut for the Red Sox on Monday. Ortiz can play in minor-league games on a rehab assignment, though, once those kick off and he's prepared to join. A couple of weeks on the farm to get himself ready for big-league action once more, and Ortiz should be back up. Which, in turn, presumably means Bradley will head down I-95 for his Triple-A debut at that time.

It shouldn't take long for this to all happen if Ortiz's heel and Achilles play nice for a change, as he is on the disabled list retroactive to March 22 -- he'll be eligible to return from the DL on Sunday, but won't even be starting rehab games until next week at the earliest. Once he's ready, the rules for bringing him back up will already be satisfied.

Ortiz's presence will be needed in a tightly packed American League East. He has hit .296/.391/.558 -- good for a 151 OPS+ -- over the last three years, and managed to tie his career-high in OPS+ last season despite it being his age-36 campaign. Now 37 years old, and with two years left in Boston after signing an extension, he should still have something left in the tank to power the Sox from his typical designated hitter spot whether or not he can replicate his previous numbers. He's going to have to get back into game action, any game action, before that can occur, though.

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