Ortiz has cast removed; wrist in splint

Ortiz has cast removed; wrist in splint

PHILADELPHIA -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona tried to get in touch with David Ortiz to discuss the slugger's improving health, only to discover that Big Papi remains as popular as ever.

"I tried to call David and the [mailbox] was full," Francona said. "He probably changed his number for the 97th time."

But there could come a time not too long from now when Ortiz will be in the Boston lineup during road trips such as this, and not a phone call away in Boston.

Francona revealed that Ortiz had the cast taken off his left wrist on Monday, and it was replaced by a removable forearm split. The designated hitter, who has been sidelined since suffering a partial tear of his ECU tendon sheath on May 31, will be able to start range of motion exercises as early as Tuesday.

For sure, it was the best sign yet that Ortiz will avoid surgery, which would have meant missing the rest of the season.

"It's a very good, because they weren't going to [remove the cast] until he was pain free. I think that's a real good sign," Francona said. "Once he gets that removable splint, he can take that thing off, he can do his work. He can do range of motion. That's great. I don't think they would really take him out of the cast and keep him out of the cast unless he is pain free."

Though there is still no timetable for Ortiz's return, early July is starting to seem more realistic.

"Just like everything else, it goes on how he feels," Francona said. "Not just our estimated time of arrival."

The Red Sox have done a nice job weathering the storm without Ortiz, going 10-4 in his first 14 games out of the lineup. A big reason for that is J.D. Drew, who is hitting .447 with seven homers and 16 RBIs since the departure of Ortiz.

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