Within nearly everyone thinking his best days were behind him, Boston's David Ortiz has rewarded the Red Sox belief in him by seemingly turning back the clock on his career.
Ortiz in the swing of things
At 35, nearly released last year, and with his age and salary working against him, David Ortiz was supposed to be done.
In a season that many forecast would be his last with the Boston Red Sox - or at least his last as a highly paid designated hitter - Ortiz has enjoyed a late-career rebirth. Following two seasons in which he began poorly and seemed to lose the ability to hit left-handed pitching, Ortiz is, again, one of the most feared hitters in the American League.
He leads the Red Sox in home runs with 15, and no one in baseball has hit more homers since May 1.
Ortiz, it seems, has turned the clock back to 2006.
Back then, Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined to give the Red Sox one of the most dynamic hitting combos in baseball.
One left-handed, the other right-handed, they terrorised opposing pitchers and carried the Red Sox offence.
Ramirez has since retired, but Ortiz just keeps driving the ball all over - and out of - the ballpark.
"We're seeing David take the ball the other way [to the opposite-field] like he did from 2004-2007," said his manager, Terry Francona.
And, after appearing inept at times the past two seasons against left-handed pitching, Ortiz is batting .355 against lefties and already has hit more home runs off them (three) than he did all of last season. Hitting coach Dave Magadan credits Ortiz with hard work in the off-season and determination for the turnaround against lefties.
"He arrived in spring training with a plan," Magadan said.
Indeed, Ortiz reminded himself that he once hit quite well against lefties and decided he had helped them out too much the past two season by chasing pitches out of the strike zone. This season, Ortiz has been much more selective at the plate, leading to far better at-bats and a dramatic reduction in strikeouts.
Generous with credit, Ortiz has cited the arrival of All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in helping him rediscover his stroke against lefties. From the start of spring training, the two have talked hitting, compared notes on opposing lefties and exchanged philosophies, proving that in Ortiz's case, you're never too young to learn.
Ortiz's renaissance comes at a time when teams are spending less on designated hitters. Some teams use the spot to rotate position players and provide occasional rest from playing the field. But if Ortiz keeps swinging the way he has for the first 2 months, the free agent-to-be may still land one more big payday to match his production.