Francona welcomes Papi, Bay back

Francona welcomes Papi, Bay back

JUPITER, Fla. -- While many of the Red Sox were taking a near three-hour bus ride on Thursday morning to play the Cardinals, two of the team's most productive hitters made their way back to City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla., fresh off disappointing losses in the World Baseball Classic.

By no means was manager Terry Francona rooting against David Oritz's Dominican Republic squad or Jason Bay's Canada entry in the Classic. But at the same time, he was happy to see the two sluggers back in the fold.

"Having guys back in camp, I'm not going to complain at all," Francona said. "It's hard. You spend the whole winter getting ready for camp and then nobody's here. It's kind of a weird [dynamic]."

Bay and Ortiz are both likely to return to the lineup Friday night, when the Red Sox face the Yankees at City of Palms Park in a game that will be featured on MLB.TV.

Ortiz was still a little stunned by his Dominican squad losing twice to the Netherlands.

"I'm OK," Ortiz said. "Of course I want to win. I'm telling you, everybody was trying. I think because everyone was trying so hard, that's why things didn't work out. We know our country was expecting things."

The way Ortiz looks at it, his team never quite had a chance to get in a groove.

"What people don't realize [is] that this is a short series," Ortiz said. "People are not in their best shape to play baseball. They've got this guy playing [Class] A ball and he's throwing 99 mph. Nobody can hit him. That's how it goes."

In the Dominican's elimination game, Ortiz started at first base despite his recent mention that his left shoulder had been sore.

"They talked to me about it when we knew that [Albert] Pujols wasn't going to be able [to play]," Ortiz said. "I was like, 'OK, I'll bring my glove just in case.' That last game, it was a ride-or-die situation. We needed to have Hanley [Ramirez] and [Jose] Reyes in the lineup. That was going to be the only way. So I went there and the manager only played me for six, seven innings. He didn't want to force me to get to the point that anything bad happened. He was good about it."

How is Ortiz's shoulder?

"I was feeling good," said Ortiz. "It was getting better. I just don't want to be out there and get to the point that I've got to make a decision to dive for the ball or something like that and injure my shoulder, get myself in a worse situation. I was just trying to be careful. When I was hitting, I was fine. It was [sore] sometimes when I was playing catch. I wasn't feeling right. That's because I don't play catch too much. I never play first base here anyway. I focus on hitting."

While Bay's Canada squad nearly pulled off an upset against Team USA in the first game, the Canadians lost, 6-5, and were knocked out by Italy.

"I don't know what our chances were to win the entire thing," Bay said. "Obviously, losing the way we did was not ideal. But at the same time, the first time I had fun. I had a blast again. That game against the U.S., it was probably one of, if not the, best atmospheres I've ever played a baseball game in in my life. It was something else."

"The atmosphere, the magnitude of it -- it was a playoff crowd. You get countries involved, it's in Canada and it's a big deal. I think because of that, it was kind of a letdown [after]. For the Italy game, it was about 12,000 [fans], so it was a little less raucous. But I had a blast. I would definitely do it again."

Two of Boston's other top hitters -- Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis -- are moving on with Team USA to the second round in Miami this weekend. Lefty Javier Lopez (Puerto Rico) is also in the Miami bracket. Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan) is expected to start Sunday against either Cuba or Mexico in San Diego.

Francona wasn't surprised at all to hear that Pedroia and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter have become fast friends as teammates during the tournament.

"I could have called that one," Francona said. "You could see they kind of gravitated towards each other last year in New York at that All-Star Game. How do you not gravitate towards Pedey? And Pedey respects the game so much that if you're him, how do you not gravitate towards Jeter? You can tell that Jeter likes Pedey's personality, he's full of [vim] and vinegar."

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