How Pedro Martinez and Theo Epstein saved David Ortiz's career

September 28, 2016, 7:00 PM

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Advisory: This story contains explicit language.

AFTER THE 2002 season, the Red Sox had a list of nine -- count 'em, nine -- candidates for time at first base and designated hitter. As former Red Sox beat writer Jeff Horrigan says, "The expectations were really, really low. That was clear just by the number of people they threw at the position." But Boston's new GM, Theo Epstein, and president/CEO Larry Lucchino -- with an assist from one of the greatest pitchers in team history -- saw a glimmer of something in a washout from the Twins named David Ortiz. This is the story of the months between November 2002 and May 2003, when a player nobody wanted, just one of nine, became a legend a city couldn't do without.

AFTER THE ALL-STAR break, Ortiz went on one of the great tears in baseball history, finishing the season with 31 home runs (27 of them in the final three months of the season) and 101 RBIs. His hot streak came too late for him to make the All-Star team that year -- though he did finish fifth in MVP voting -- but he made the AL roster in 10 of the next 13 seasons, starting as DH in five of them.

JED HOYER, FORMER ASSISTANT TO THE GENERAL MANAGER: David, in the second half of 2003, what he did, and who he did it against -- and by that I mean the Yankees so many times -- all you could do was watch it. You didn't believe it. But it was happening.

CUZA: When David got in the lineup, you could see the change. He played like he knew he was never going to be in that position of being so close again. I think every professional athlete has a turning point in their career. This was his.

ORTIZ: All in all, you go through a lot. But I think it was good because it brings the best out in me. That's what happened. In my career, nothing has been given. I had to earn. It doesn't make sense, I know. It doesn't happen. I know. But you can look at me as proof that it can happen.