BOSTON - One of the first things Bobby Valentine did when he was hired as the manager of the Red Sox in late November was to fly down to the Dominican Republic to pay a visit to David Ortiz's charity golf tournament.
Ortiz was a free agent at the time. The Red Sox had offered salary arbitration, but he hadn't accepted and his situation was still somewhat up in the air.
Whether or not the meeting had anything to do with the outcome, a one-year contract that avoided arbitration, it's clear the Red Sox are happy to have their 36-year-old DH back in their lineup.
Sunday, Ortiz ripped his seventh straight hit over two days to score Kevin Youkilis from first base and snap a 4-4 sixth-inning tie as the Red Sox beat the Rays, 6-4 on Sunday for their third win over Tampa Bay in as many days.
Boston, winning on the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut in the major leagues, goes for a sweep of the four-game series Monday morning, in the annual 11 a.m. Boston Marathon Day game.
Valentine said he wanted Ortiz to be back, but said, "I think that was everybody's opinion. It wasn't as though I had to convince anyone about his importance, but I definitely wanted to let him know that the new guy really wanted him and that's basically all I said; that I always appreciated watching him from afar and I know how important he is to any team and I wanted him on mine."
Ortiz didn't remember the meeting exactly the same way, but appreciated Valentine showing up.
"It was good. It was great," he said. "Very generous from Bobby, his coming down and support our cause down there and introduce himself."
Asked if he felt Valentine was there to deliver the "I want you back" message, Ortiz said, "I don't know. We didn't even talk about it. It was just he came down for a day, we've got activities going on all the time. It was pretty cool."
Regardless of which story is more accurate, Ortiz IS back, and he's batting .444 through the first nine games of the season. He came into spring training in great shape and has managed to start well, something he hasn't done in recent years, which has led to the annual is-he-finished speculation.
"See the ball and hit it; keep it simple," Ortiz said.
Saturday, he singled, homered, singled and doubled his last four times up, driving in five runs. Sunday, he doubled in the second, singled in the fifth and double in the sixth. The Rays finally got him out in the seventh, and he is 9-for-13 in this series.
"It's like he knows what's coming," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "Their lineup really is locked in right now. They're on a pretty good roll right now."
The Red Sox came into this series having gone 1-5 on their opening six-game road trip and have scored 31 runs on 39 hits against a talented Tampa Bay pitching staff. James Shields tries to stop the bleeding when he faces Daniel Bard Monday.
Cody Ross, who drove in two runs in each of his last two Saturday at-bats, clobbered a three-run homer his first time up Sunday -- his second tape-measure shot in as many at bats, as Boston built a 4-0 lead. But lefty Felix Doubront couldn't hold it and Carlos Pena's two-run double (after a reviewed foul home run call was upheld) keyed a three-run fifth and Luke Scott's second homer in two days tied it in the top of the sixth.
After Ortiz broke the tie, Mike Aviles hit his second homer in as many days for an insurance run in the seventh
All six Red Sox runs came off starter Matt Moore (0-1), while Vicente Padilla, the third of five Boston pitchers, got the win and Juan Aceves his second save with a perfect ninth.
NOTES: In honor of the Robinson anniversary, Ralph Branca, the last living Robinson teammate and the father-in-law of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, threw out the first pitch. He remembered Robinson coming into the Dodger clubhouse to join the team for the 1947 opener and said, "I walked over and shook his hand and said, 'Welcome aboard.' All I could think was can he help us win the pennant? Can he help us win games? I didn't even think about the color of his skin because I lived on a block that was the United Nations of all." ... Boston added outfielder Jason Repko and utility player Nate Spears from Pawtucket. Repko started in centerfield, where the Sox are expected to be without Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) for 6-8 weeks. ... The Rays recalled catcher Chris Gimenez from Durham and he started, with catcher Jose Lobaton hitting the disabled list (shoulder). ... The Rays' 13-5 loss Saturday ended their streak of winning 32 straight games when scoring five or more runs, the longest current streak in the majors and matching the club record. It was also the longest such streak in the majors since the Braves went 42 straight in late 2009 into 2010.