Ortiz: 'I'm finally turning the corner'

NEW YORK -- David Ortiz ran wind sprints in the Yankee Stadium outfield Monday without any pain or discomfort in his heels, and said he will fly to Fort Myers, Fla. on Thursday night to play in some rehab games there over the weekend.

“I feel really good,’’ said the Sox DH, who begins the season on the disabled list. “I ran hard today out there in front of the doctors and the trainers and it was no problem. I did some sprints, some sharp turning. I’m going to do that a couple of more days, then I’m going to Florida.’’

The plan, Ortiz said, is to play “about four or five games” in Fort Myers, then do the same for a “few games” in Pawtucket.

“And, if everything goes well, I will be back with the big team,’’ he said.

Ortiz said he couldn’t put an exact time table on his return to the club, but, he said, “I’m finally turning the corner.’’

“I ran hard today, and I didn’t need to ice or anything,’’ he said. “I don’t need to do that anymore.’’

Ortiz also took part in pregame batting practice with his team, which opens its season Monday in the Bronx against the New York Yankees.

The Red Sox have been under intense scrutiny for signing Ortiz to a two-year, $26 million contract, then discovering his Achilles issues had not dissipated. Ortiz was originally injured last July 16 running the bases and landed on the disabled list. He returned to play against the Kansas City Royals last Aug. 24 and punched out two hits and two RBIs, but sat out the remaining games of 2012 season with the injury.

Ortiz reported to spring training anticipating participating in full workouts, but he experienced inflammation in both heels and was shut down on March 10. He hasn’t played for the Red Sox since.

The slugger is aware of the firestorm over his contract, but, he said, he hasn’t let it affect him.

“It doesn’t upset me,’’ he insisted. “I don’t pay attention to that. In baseball, you’ve got to earn everything. No one ever gets anything for free. They signed me because I earned it, and they know I’m going to be back playing baseball at some point.’’

The negative backlash, said Ortiz, is understandable, especially since he expected to participate in a full spring training and had no reason to believe he’d be an Opening Day scratch.

“I did not expect this,’’ he said. “I did not want this. I do care about a lot of things, but I’ve learned how to put things aside. (The criticism) is one of those things I have to let go.

“Nobody is more frustrated than me. I want to be playing baseball. That is my life.’’