SEATTLE -- He said there were no chest pains. No high blood pressure. David Ortiz said it was stress and dehydration that put him in Massachusetts General Hospital for intravenous fluids and overnight observation last Saturday in the middle of the Yankee series.
``It was like my whole body was cramping," Ortiz said before facing the Mariners and lefthander Jake Woods last night. ``I was in there getting IVs and stuff . . . But I'm a healthy son of a bitch."
The punch lines are easy now, of course. A lot of people in Red Sox Nation were stressed while watching the Yankees give the Red Sox a good beating in the historic five-game Fenway flameout. But it's best to avoid the one-liners here. We are never that far removed from the tragedy of Reggie Lewis and it's scary any time a young (Ortiz is 30) athlete spends the night in the hospital with symptoms that could indicate a heart condition.
Amazingly, Ortiz never missed a game during his ordeal. After spending the night in Mass. General, he vaulted out of bed and went 3 for 6 with a homer and double in the Sox' crushing Sunday night loss to the Yankees.
He said his problems started the first day of the Yankee series. With the Sox losing, 12-3, in the first game of the interminable day-night doubleheader last Friday, Wily Mo Peña batted for Ortiz in the ninth. We all just figured it was Terry Francona getting Wily Mo an at-bat at the end of a blowout. Ortiz said he went home between games and tried to sleep but could not get any rest. Then he came back to the park and played in the 4-hour-45-minute night debacle.
``I was like kind of stressed out and dehydrated and wasn't feeling too good," he remembered. ``And the next day [Saturday], it was worse. I talked to the doc [Larry Ronan] and they decided to bring me to the hospital. We went there late, after everybody was gone."
Ortiz did not ride to Mass. General in an ambulance. He went in a private car.
``I got a lot of stress going on," he said.
Asked if he'd ever experienced similar symptoms, Ortiz said, ``Not really. I feel dehydrated before, but this wasn't a good feeling. I was not sleeping at all. That's how you get stressed.
``My family, they worried, especially my kids. My daughter said, `Daddy, what happened?' "
Incredibly, Ortiz's visit to Mass. General went unreported for almost an entire week. He is one of the most famous (and largest) citizens of New England, and yet no one dropped a dime on his hospitalization until it was reported on an obscure website (carpundit.typepad.com) while the Red Sox were in California. Ortiz confirmed the report in a conversation with the Herald's Tony Massarotti Thursday and last night agreed to discuss the matter for the first time.
``I don't want to go back to Boston and people are freaking out," he said. ``When it's going to come out in the news, people want info. Not too many people really know. But I'm feeling much better on the West Coast.
``I've been sleeping my ass off."
His repeated references to being ``stressed" surprised those of us who see him on a semi-regular basis. No Sox player carries himself with more joy or appears more relaxed than David Ortiz. It's hard to imagine him feeling any pressure. He delivers almost every day and we never think of him as a guy who smashes helmets and/or takes the game home with him. But he acknowledged the Yankee series got to him on the same level that tortures a lot of Sox fans.
``I was stressed about everything," he said. ``I stress a lot, I don't know why. You go home and you start having nightmares. It's frustrating . . . There was a lot of stress going on -- especially the ass-kicking we got, all had something to do with it."
So there. A scare, and hopefully nothing more.
And the legend grows. Now the Nation has even more reason to love Big Papi. He leads the majors in home runs, RBIs, and good will. Turns out he cares as much as you care. He put himself in the damn hospital he cares so much.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com