Ortiz avoids controversy on contract talk

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Ortiz does not deny that he has been more subdued this spring.

"But no question, it will come back,'' the Red Sox DH said of his Big Papi persona. "I'm just focusing on getting ready for the season.''

Ortiz is tight-lipped when asked if there is anything that might be weighing on him. The most obvious potential source of discontent is his contract situation: The Red Sox hold an option on the 2011 season for $12.5 million.

Ortiz said he has had no conversations with the club regarding his contract.

"I'm just focusing on playing, not being a distraction about anything,'' he said. "It's going to be up to them to come talk to me. So I'm getting prepared to play.''

Briefly, he allowed some unhappiness with his situation to surface, especially when the conversation turned to how the Red Sox, in 2003, exercised a $17.5 contract option they held on Pedro Martinez in the first week of the season, seven months ahead of the November deadline to do so. Ortiz and the Sox face a similar deadline.

"It sucks,'' he said, "but that's the way it goes. Baseball is totally different right now. I'm not going to be crazy about it. My focus right now is to make sure I have a good season.''

Ortiz's bargaining position, of course, was not helped by a wrist injury in 2008 and a horrendous start in 2009, when he went six weeks without a home run before rebounding with numbers matching Alex Rodriguez from June 1 on.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona noted Saturday morning how personnel on other teams have commented on how good Ortiz looks this spring, and that hitting coach Dave Magadan has been effusive about Ortiz's sessions in the batting cage.

Those positive reviews have so far not translated to Ortiz's performance in the first eight days of exhibition play. He homered against the Northeastern college kids, but since then has an opposite-field single to show for 16 spring at-bats. He popped out, struck out and walked Saturday in a 3-2 win here over Pittsburgh, and said he plans to play Sunday against Minnesota as well.

"I've got to play, I've got to get the at-bats,'' he said. "That's what spring training is for, putting yourself together. It's a routine, you know. Get some at-bats, get some innings, get yourself ready to go.

"It's still real early.''

When another group of reporters approached and asked about his slow start, Ortiz had a ready answer.

"I've never seen my numbers for spring training on the back of my baseball card,'' he told them.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.