Sleeplessness, dehydration sent Papi to hospital

SEATTLE -- Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said stress and nearly a week of sleeplessness caused dehydration and eventually the irregular heartbeat that landed him in a Boston hospital last weekend.

The major-league leader in home runs said he was "stressed out about everything" -- including the New York Yankees' first three wins of their eventual five-game sweep of the Red Sox last weekend that has turned both teams' seasons. A team doctor advised him to go to Massachusetts General Hospital last Saturday evening.

He didn't need an ambulance -- a team assistant drove him.

And he didn't miss a game -- he has missed only two of Boston's 128 games. He spent one night under observation while receiving intravenous fluids. He went home Sunday and returned to Fenway Park a few hours later to hit his 44th home run in another Boston loss to New York that night.

But he was stressed.

"I stress a lot, sometimes," the usually gregarious, outwardly jolly giant said before starting again as Boston's designated hitter in the series opener against the Seattle Mariners.

"We got to play all those games against New York. You know, there was a lot of stress going on," the 30-year-old Ortiz said. "And then to go out there and receive that [butt] kicking ... I wasn't feeling good. I was beat."

It was his first time speaking publicly about the hospitalization, which was first reported on the Internet earlier this week. He initially would not discuss the situation, and Boston manager Terry Francona continued to honor Ortiz's request to remain mum Friday afternoon.

"He just prefers it that way. I just have to follow protocol," Francona said.

But then about an hour later, Ortiz emerged from the trainer's area of the Safeco Field visiting clubhouse to tell what happened.

"I didn't want to go back to Boston with people freaking out about something like that," he said. "When something like this comes out, the press wants to get more information. But you just want to get it over with."

Now, Ortiz said, "I'm a healthy son of a [gun]."

Thursday, he hit his second home run in as many games to lead the Red Sox to a series win at the Los Angeles Angels. Boston entered Friday with 15 losses this month -- its most in a calendar month since August 2002. But it hasn't been Ortiz's fault. He had five home runs in nine games entering Friday.

He reached 46 home runs in his 125th game Thursday, faster than any hitter in Boston history. Jimmie Foxx hit his 46th in his 140th game of 1938.

"Actually, you know what? I'm feeling way better here on the West Coast," Ortiz said. "There's more time to sleep in. I've been sleeping my [rear end] off."

Ortiz said he began feeling ill between games of a day-night doubleheader on Aug. 18 against New York that dragged into the early morning. Between games, he had gone home and tried to sleep but couldn't.

He said by Aug. 19, "It was like my whole body was cramping ... I've felt dehydrated before, but it wasn't like that. It wasn't a good feeling."

Dr. Larry Ronan, a member of the Red Sox medical team, checked Ortiz after that Saturday afternoon loss to New York and sent Ortiz to Massachusetts General for more tests.

Doctors there found an irregular heartbeat and told Ortiz the cause was stress. Ortiz said he had been having problems sleeping for "four or five days" before his hospital stay.