Ortiz begins rehab stint with PawSox

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has not played in an actual game in nearly eight months because of an Achilles injury.

His road to recovery takes another positive step as he begins a minor league rehab assignment with the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday night at McCoy Stadium. He's scheduled to hit third and get four to five at-bats during the PawSox's opening night against the Rochester Red Wings.

"Come down here and get the engine going," Ortiz said prior to the game. "It's been good lately. I'm finally seeing good results."

He struggled to get healthy during spring training, but after the team decided to shut him down, that's when he started to feel better again.

"Right after they shut me down and treating everything differently, I started to feel better," he said. "I had a lot of inflammation down there, so the main key was to get rid of it and it's working pretty good."

Ortiz played a simulated game Monday in Fort Myers, Fla., and an extended spring training game on Tuesday. He was scheduled to play again on Wednesday, but instead he flew to Boston, spent some time with his family and drove to Pawtucket on Thursday afternoon.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Boston's game that although Ortiz took Wednesday off, aside from some side work, the plan to get the big slugger back has not changed.

"Scheduled for four to five at-bats. That's the goal over the next four to five days," Farrell said. "Going into this it felt that a minimum of 20 at-bats were needed, so that plan is still consistent."

Ortiz took BP on Thursday and showed no ill effects. After the brief session, he was asked about getting his timing back during the two games earlier in the week.

"I wasn't worried about that, to be honest with you, down there, I was more afraid about getting hit," he said with a laugh. "The kids getting excited down there. I remember those days when I played down there, when you see a Major League Baseball player you get excited and sometimes you try to do too much, but everything went well and everybody was under control.

"When I was down there I wanted to just put the ball in play and try to run -- that was my goal down there. My idea was to put the ball in play and take off running just to see how it feels."

Since he hasn't played in a game since last August, Ortiz said he'll rely on memory and instincts in order to return to form.

"When it comes down to hitting, I haven't played in a while, so you just wanna go back to that zone that everybody knows you need to be able to dominate once you get to the bigs, because otherwise it'll give you a hard time. On the other hand, I want to make sure my foot is doing well."

There's been some concern that Ortiz may not be able to log the similar amount of games he normally does during the season, but he insists once he's activated his realistic goal is to play on a regular basis.

"I'm looking forward to going out there and play every day," Ortiz said. "I'll get that one day off once in a while, but my goal is to go back up and do what I normally do."

During his absence the Red Sox are off to a strong start. Ortiz has been paying close attention. He likes what he sees and can't wait to contribute.

"Awesome, man," he said of the club's start. "When you can win games at the beginning and start things ahead it's easier down the road, so seeing everybody playing well, and our pitching has been outstanding and it gets no better."

Information from ESPNBoston.com contributor Tony Lee was used in this report.