Ortiz off to best start ever

MINNEAPOLIS -- Teeing you up on an absolutely gorgeous Tuesday night in Target Field, a place I fall in love with again every time I visit.

* Through 15 games, David Ortiz is off to the best start of his big-league career, taking a league-leading .441 average into Tuesday night’s game. With a week left in the month, Ortiz already has 26 hits, within one hit of his career high for April. That’s the most hits any Sox player has had in his first 15 games since Dominic DiMaggio in 1941.

Ortiz, who is 36, predicted big things early in spring training, saying how much better he felt because of an unusual diet regimen he followed in the offseason.

"It's a lot harder to do in the season,'' he said.

Ortiz said he has now lost 25 pounds, and looks it.

So has the fast start been all about the diet? "I'm a hitter,'' Ortiz said. "I'm a bad [expletive]. That's what it is.''

Ortiz offered a similar explanation for why he's not surprised at all by the fast start by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who is 38.

"Not at all,'' he said. "He's been a bad [expletive] for life. He just went back to normal.''

Here are Ortiz' lines through 15 games since 2004, the first season he began as a Red Sox regular:

* Maybe it will end up being the case that Kelly Shoppach draws the majority of starts with pitcher Josh Beckett this season. Shoppach is making his third consecutive start with Beckett after Jarrod Saltalamacchia was behind the plate for his first start, one in which Beckett was hammered for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings and gave up five home runs. With Shoppach behind the plate, Beckett allowed just a run in eight innings against Toronto and gave up three in seven innings last week against the Rangers.

The Sox insist that Shoppach has not been designated Beckett's personal catcher, and Bobby Valentine can point to another reason why Shoppach is catching Tuesday night. He has the best numbers of any Sox hitter against Twins starter Nick Blackburn, going 8-for-16 with 3 home runs.

* Daisuke Matsuzaka came out of his rehab assignment for Class A Salem Monday night (4 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 HR, 0 BBs, 3 Ks) feeling good and will make his next start for Class AA Portland on Saturday in Hadlock Field.

* Cody Ross became the first Sox player in 22 years to hit a game-tying and game-winning home run in the same game from the seventh inning on, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The last Sox player to do so was Dwight Evans on June 23, 1990, in Fenway Park, where Evans hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth and a walkoff, two-run homer in the 10th.