BOSTON -- There was yet another subplot to Saturday's emotional day at Fenway Park, as David Ortiz made his return to the team, batting cleanup.
It was Ortiz's first game for the Red Sox since Aug. 24, 2012, and just his second game since July 20 of last season. For eight months, Ortiz battled back from discomfort in his right Achilles.
In his comeback game, Ortiz went 2-for-4, including an RBI single that tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. Boston went on to beat the Royals, 4-3.
The timing for Ortiz's return was fitting, because it meant he could take part in the stirring pregame tribute to recognize those who either responded or were impacted by the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon.
As the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox, Ortiz has always taken enormous pride in the city he plays for.
He was the only player to give a speech during the ceremony.
"All right. All right, Boston," Ortiz boomed into the microphone. "This jersey that we wear today," he said, "it doesn't say Red Sox. It says Boston. We want to thank you Mayor [Tom] Menino, Gov. [Deval] Patrick, the whole police department for the great job they did this past week.
"This is our f------ city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong."
Ortiz didn't plan on going the expletive route, but he admitted his emotions have been raw in recent days over what happened.
"It just came out," Ortiz said. "It just came out, man. If I offended anybody, I apologize, but I feel like this town needs to be pumped. Man, this past week, I don't think there was one human being that wasn't affected by what we've got going on down here. Me, myself, I was very emotional, very angry about the whole situation.
"I've got to get that out of my chest and just make sure that our fans and everybody in the nation knows that this is a great nation and part of it was how everybody supported each other when this thing went down. I'm just proud and happy to be part of this nation."
Without question, Boston's lineup looks stronger with Ortiz in it.
"To see him walk in the clubhouse, the energy and the excitement that always seems to surround him, not only the ability of him as a player and a hitter, but to have him in the middle of the lineup, it lengthens out our lineup," said manager John Farrell. "And we'll work through whatever needs he has from a physical standpoint and how he responds to daily play as our guide on how we continue to work him back as an everyday player."
With Ortiz batting fourth, Mike Napoli moved down to fifth, while Daniel Nava hit sixth and Will Middlebrooks batted seventh.
The 1-2-3 alignment of Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia stayed intact.
"Particularly a left-handed bat of his production," said Farrell. "To balance out what Mike has done in the early going and the number of runs he's driven in, and really, when you look at what Daniel has done in the middle of the order, he's been an outstanding contributor in his own right. To have Will in the seven-hole in today's lineup, that's a pretty potent bat that deep in the lineup today.
With Ortiz coming back, Farrell gave Jackie Bradley Jr. the news following Thursday night's game in Cleveland that he was going to Triple-A Pawtucket. Bradley, who is ranked the organization's No. 2 prospect, had a monster spring and a good opening three-game series at Yankee Stadium, but he finished his first stint with Boston mired in an 0-for-20 slump.
"It should be a very good learning experience," Farrell said. "When balls are squared up [in the Majors], the defense is much more sharp. The understanding of the information that's out there and how quickly it circulates, he can become pitched to [easier]. But at the same time, [he should] know that he's a very important part of our organization and a very good player going forward.
"We fully expect and have the utmost confidence he's going to be a very good everyday player in time. Every player goes through a transition period, and hopefully this adds to that transition and makes it happen that much quicker for him. Players are going to fail. They're going to get challenged. The fact that Jackie got it early on in his career, I think will serve him well going forward."