David Ortiz hopes his 20th and final big league season will be up to the standard he has set for himself.
Big Papi announced in November on his 40th birthday that he planned to retire after 2016.
"I’m not a guy who can get away with a bad season," he said Tuesday after reporting to spring training with the Boston Red Sox. "People are always expecting me to come in and do what I got them used to. It takes a lot away from me to continue at that level, and I’m not getting any younger."
A nine-time All-Star, Ortiz helped the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series for their first title since 1918, then added championships in 2007 and 2013. He hit .273 last year with 37 homers and 108 RBIs.
"I think everybody gets their moment where you feel like it’s time to go," he said. "I know I can hit. I don’t know how much longer I can be able do what I do."
While he’s reached 30 homers and 100 RBIs for three straight years, he can tell on the field his time is coming to an end.
"I look around me," he said, "and everybody’s 20."
Ortiz has a .284 career average and 1,641 RBI in 2,257 games. He enters this season, his 14th with the Red Sox, with 503 home runs, 27th on the career list and third among active players behind Alex Rodriguez with (687) and Albert Pujols (560).
Only Hall of Famers Ted Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452) have more homers for the Red Sox than Ortiz (445).
"When I first started playing baseball, even when I got to the big leagues, you never expect to be with those guys," Ortiz said. "All of a sudden towards the end of your career, people start comparing your name and numbers with those (legends). From the outside you look at yourself and you look at the whole picture and you realize `Wow, it’s been an unbelievable journey."’
In his final season, Ortiz would like to mentor teammates and paying respect to fans.
"I always try to be the best I can be with the fans," he said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re cheering for Cleveland, for Baltimore, whatever team you’re cheering for, you’re supporting me because you are a baseball fan. So I’m going to show my appreciation to everyone."
Xander Bogaerts, a 23-year-old infielder, recalled Ortiz’s assistance last year. Bogaerts said "it will be weird without him around."
"I hit third. He was fourth, so he would see a lot of things during the at-bat and he would always whistle to me or let me know `Hey, you’re doing this’ or `Be aware of this pitch,"’ Bogaerts said. "He’s been hitting in that spot his whole life, so he knows what it takes to be successful in that spot."
After a pair of last-place finishes in the AL East, the Red Sox would like to get Ortiz a fourth title. He says working with the Red Sox in some capacity is likely in the future.
What is he most looking forward to?
"Probably to drive around with Jim Rice and Luis Tiant," he said with a laugh. "We already started working on that yesterday, driving around in a golf cart."
"Nothing is forever," he added. "It’s just time to do different things."