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Notes: Big Papi slugging in September

Notes: Big Papi slugging in September

BOSTON -- For a while, slugger David Ortiz seemed to be on the verge of having a year that would be just a little below par. Then came September, and there went that theory.

After Friday night's game, the big designated hitter leads the Major Leagues in OPS with an impressive mark of 1.069, with a slight edge over American League MVP favorite Alex Rodriguez in that category.

"I think he's had an underappreciated year, just because all the home runs aren't quite there, or the RBIs we've seen in the past," said general manager Theo Epstein. "But if you look, he's had one of the best offensive seasons in the American League, if not the best. It's pretty impressive what he's done."

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Ortiz went 3-for-4 on Friday with a homer.

Yes, Big Papi -- ailing right knee and all -- is very much back.

"He drove that ball [on Thursday] night," said manager Terry Francona. "We haven't seen him hit a ball like that in a while. And he didn't just like take a swing and catch it. He stayed through the ball. That's really good to see."

Ortiz walloped a double to left in his first at-bat on Friday and scored on Mike Lowell's single up the middle. He rifled a single to right in his second at-bat.

Epstein comfortable with team: Epstein is upbeat about the overall health of his team heading into the postseason. This, coming off a month in which the Red Sox had their share of injuries.

"I think certain key guys are starting to get healthy," Epstein said. "We're starting to play with a full deck now. You always want to be as healthy as you are coming out of Spring Training and for the playoffs, but that's never the case. I think all teams are a little beat up. Guys have a way of playing through things and playing their best baseball in October, regardless of aches and pains."

Epstein was also heartened by right fielder J.D. Drew's strong September.

"J.D. has played pretty well in September," Epstein said. "It's going to be important for this club that he keeps it up going forward. He seems to have locked in a consistent approach for a long stretch for the first time all year at an important time, so that's great."

Drew hit an RBI double on Friday.

Ellsbury back, Coco still out: With center fielder Coco Crisp out of the mix for a fourth straight game with a viral infection, Francona was pleased that Jacoby Ellsbury was able to return to the lineup after leaving Thursday's contest with cramping in his right calf.

"We've all had it," said Francona. "It's like a charley horse, or somebody hits you with a bat. The next day, you wake up and feel like you have a really big bruise. Hopefully, that thing loosens up enough where he can go out there. If not, we'll make an adjustment."

Clement gets work in: Right-hander Matt Clement, who hasn't pitched all year after undergoing labrum and rotator cuff surgery last September, pitched one inning in an instructional league game. Clement is scheduled to pitch again in the instructional league on Oct. 3. A free agent this winter, Clement hopes to be ready for the start of the 2008 season.

Coming up: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (16-12, 4.80 ERA) will make his final start of the regular season on Saturday, when he goes against Twins right-hander Carlos Silva (13-14, 4.22 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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