BOSTON -- David Ortiz’s first-ever steal of third Wednesday was the cause of considerable mirth in the Sox clubhouse, with Ortiz the first to have fun with it. Asked what he thought when third-base coach Brian Butterfield flashed the “steal” sign, Ortiz said: “I was like, 'Are you sure?' "
“Caught me off-guard," deadpanned Mike Napoli.
Green light from here on out?
“That would have to be a pretty big light," manager John Farrell said.
But beyond the novelty, there is a more significant takeaway: The Sox wouldn’t be asking Ortiz to run, and the big man wouldn’t be on the move, unless all parties were satisfied by the progress he has made in recovering from the Achilles tendon injury that cost him the second half of last season, all of spring training, and the first 15 games of this season.
"I’ve been running well," Ortiz said. “Every day I feel better. You guys know me, if I feel well I’m going to run. Not steal bases, but take advantage of whatever is happening."
Farrell said that with a full count, the Sox like to put their runners in motion, which is why Ortiz was given the steal sign. Daniel Nava was called out on strikes, and Ortiz took third without drawing a throw.
“With his speed, he outright stole it,’’ Farrell said as straight-faced as Napoli.
Ortiz came out swinging from the day he was activated, reeling off a career-best 15-game hitting streak, but Farrell said that Ortiz has held up physically better than the club anticipated. He has played in all but two games this month.
“Once he got past that first 10 days, the consistency of his daily activity probably exceeded our initial thoughts," Farrell said. “He’s responded physically in a good way after every game. And he’s not just jogging to the dugout. He’s been running the bases quite a bit and he’s in a good place physically. Overall, his durability has been better than anticipated."
Napoli, another player also not known for his speed, made a notable contribution to Wednesday's 6-2 win, scoring on a passed ball.
"For me, it's about anticipation," Napoli said, "being ready for something to happen. There are guys that aren’t as fast but have good anticipation. Sometimes they get better reads and jumps on balls.
"You can't be scared. You have to want to make plays. I'm not scared to do it."