"I want to run like I did when I went down to first base," Ortiz said while referring to the double play he hit into in the sixth inning of what turned out to be a 6-1 Pawtucket victory. "That's my concern. I want to hit, of course, but it's not something I'm worried about.
"I worry about making sure that when I run I feel healthy. It was good tonight. I got to run down the line when I hit the ball to the middle, and it feels fine. I wasn't concerned about anything, so that's good."
What Ortiz was referring to was the right Achilles' tendon injury he suffered last season and which has sidelined him since Aug. 24.
"It can happen [re-injuring the tendon], but meanwhile it's not happening," he said. "That's what I'm looking for. My doctor [Boston Coordinator of Sports Medicine Service Dan Dyrek] says if I keep on playing I'm going to keep on feeling better, because there isn't anything bad going on down there.
"Every day I improve more and more ... running and doing game things. You just get used to it. I want to max when I'm running just to see if I'm feeling anything. I'm not 100 percent. But I'm close. I'm very close."
Is Ortiz close enough to join Boston when it returns home Friday night and opens a series against Kansas City, even though he'll play another rehab game Thursday?
Boston manager John Farrell expressed the opinion that it could happen.
"If all things go accordingly, there's a real possibility he can rejoin us on the homestand," Farrell said. "It's still open-ended. Optimistically, it would be at the start of the homestand."
Ortiz was even more optimistic about his chances of rejoining Boston.
"I think I can go back," he said. "I want to be there Friday night. The doctor's going to be a big part of the process, and he's going to manage me."
Lefty Cesar Jimenez started for the IronPigs and got Ortiz to swing and miss in the first inning on a 3-2 fastball that was clocked at 91 mph.
Ortiz jumped on the first pitch he saw in the fourth and fouled out to third base, again on a 91-mph fastball.
Righty Zach Miner faced Ortiz in the sixth, with runners on first and second and one out. He induced the designated hitter to hit a sharp grounder up the middle that shortstop Pete Orr turned into the aforementioned double play.
Ortiz went up against another righty in the seventh, Justin DeFratus. After fouling off two fastballs, Ortiz popped out to center.
Through five games, Ortiz is hitting only .200 (3-for-15), with four strikeouts.
"The more I play, the better my timing gets," he said. "I'm running out of time, but I'm old enough to know what it takes. I know how to be smart. I know how to get to think quicker than before.
"I'm playing here, and these kids are pitching me like I just came back from hitting 40 bombs. That's my game. But remember, I haven't played in eight months. It doesn't matter how good a hitter I am. It's not easy to come in and hit a homer. You work, you stay consistent and, boom, it happens."