Ortiz, Guerrero continue similar paths

BOSTON -- Slugger David Ortiz sat in full uniform in the Boston Red Sox's clubhouse and was looking over his stats on his iPad after his 0-for-4 performance in a 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

In the visitor's clubhouse, the Rangers' Vladimir Guerrero was sitting on the couch with ice packs on both knees.

Their similarities are striking. Their importance is equally valid.

Without the 34-year-old Ortiz producing for the Red Sox and the 35-year-old Guerrero having a monster year for the Rangers, it's likely both clubs could be having different seasons. Despite all their injuries, the Red Sox are still in contention in the AL East, and it's no coincidence Ortiz is producing offensively. It's also no accident the Rangers are atop the AL West with the resurgence of Guerrero.

Injuries had taken a toll on both players in years leading up to this season, but both have re-emerged as offensive threats in 2010.

While it was a quiet night for Ortiz, Guerrero went 3-for-5, scored twice and provided an RBI to help the Rangers to victory in the first of a four-game set at Fenway Park. Guerrero is hitting .323 this season with 76 RBIs and 20 home runs. He finished 2009, his last season with the Los Angeles Angels, hitting .295 with only 50 RBIs and 15 homers.

Ortiz is hitting .259 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs. He and Guerrero represented their clubs at the Tuesday's All-Star game in Anaheim, and the two were able to catch up.

While they may be opponents on the field, their friendship goes back a long time. They're always rooting for each other and both smile when they look at each other's statistics this season.

"It's great. Everyone knows what type of hitter Vladdy is," Ortiz said. "Vladdy and me go way back. He's had injury problems, which is something that's hard to deal with, but other than that, he's having a Hall of Fame career."

A season ago, most thought Ortiz and Guerrero were finished -- that they were past their primes and on the decline faster than a Stephen Strasburg fastball.

Ortiz made it his goal to prove everyone wrong. It's clear Guerrero did, too.

Both are doing it.

"We talked a lot last year, and I advised him you can't try to rush things because you know you can hit," Guerrero said. "It just takes some time sometimes and things don't always work out, but I'm glad he's made the adjustments."

Ortiz has been mainly a designated hitter in his career, while Guerrero has played the outfield and has served as a DH, too.

Both are natives of the Dominican Republic. Both signed as amateur free agents -- Ortiz with the Mariners in 1992 and Guerrero with the Expos in 1993. Guerrero's first year in the majors came in 1996 as a 21-year-old. Ortiz made his debut with the Minnesota Twins in 1997 at the same age.

Until Guerrero signed with the Rangers during this past offseason as a free agent, he had played for only two organizations in his career -- the Expos and Angels. Ditto for Ortiz. He's played for the Twins and Red Sox.

Guerrero is a nine-time All-Star. Ortiz has made it six times. Both have received numerous MVP votes during their respective careers. Guerrero won the AL MVP in 2004 with the Angels; Ortiz has finished second, third and fourth (twice) but has never won it with the Red Sox.

But this season isn't about what they've done in the past and how similar their backgrounds are. It's about the here and now. And the now is looking bright for both.

"Vladdy is something else, man," Ortiz said. "I don't count myself even close to what he has done. This guy is just a beast, and when he's healthy, look out."

The same can be said for Ortiz. The Sox's slugger rebounded once again from a tough start this season and he's been hurt by public opinion the past two seasons that his abilities are declining. Both seasons he's proved everyone wrong.

Guerrero is doing the same.

"Sometimes, in peoples' mind, they get the doubt about things that we can do. Why? I don't know. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be," Ortiz said. "I get a little bit surprised about a guy who never hits and he comes out and hits, but a person who has done it a ton of times before, I'm not surprised. So, I'm not surprised by what Vladdy is doing. This is what he's been doing his whole career."

Guerrero is a career .320 hitter and has 427 home runs to his name, along with 1,394 RBIs. Ortiz has a .280 career average with 335 homers and 1,125 RBIs.

"There's one thing I don't understand about the game," Ortiz said. "They way I was brought up and taught the game was to always be prepared to play. When you're good at it, nobody can take that away from you. But it seems like I've got more things to prove than somebody who hasn't proved anything. That's what it seems like, which I don't think is fair.

"I'm always asked, 'Do you feel like you've got something to prove?' No. I don't. There's a reason I've been in the league 13 years. If you don't prove yourself as soon as you walk in, you'll be walking out. That's how it is. Vladdy's got nothing to prove, too."

The success Ortiz and Guerrero are having this season is just another indication how valuable the DH is in the American League. It's also a major reason why the Red Sox and Rangers are having good seasons.

"We were both struggling, and now we're both picking it up," Guerrero said. "Things are going better and we just want to thank God that things are better, and we're trying to keep our heads up through the tough times and do the best we can."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.