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Valentine designated to recruit Ortiz

Manager’s arrival impresses slugger

A day after getting the royal treatment at Fenway Park, Bobby Valentine was all business in flying to the Dominican Republic. A day after getting the royal treatment at Fenway Park, Bobby Valentine was all business in flying to the Dominican Republic. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / December 3, 2011
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CAP CANA, Dominican Republic - Ben Cherington has said since he took over as general manager that retaining free agent designated hitter David Ortiz was a priority for the Red Sox.

How much of a priority became abundantly clear when Bobby Valentine strolled into the Fishing Lodge resort here last night in search of Ortiz.

Installed as manager of the Sox on Thursday afternoon, Valentine was on the go less than 24 hours later to visit Ortiz and help support his charity golf event.

“That speaks to me,’’ Ortiz said, tapping his heart with his fist. “I’m impressed. That’s good stuff.’’

Valentine did not arrive with a contract offer but wanted to make it clear to Ortiz how much he wanted him back on the team. He greeted Ortiz with a hug and a big slap on the back.

“I wouldn’t miss it. I was able to catch a flight and come on down,’’ Valentine said. “We’ll have a little fun tonight, say hello, and tell him how much I love him as a player.’’

Prior to last night, Ortiz’s relationship with Valentine was limited to occasional conversations over the last few years when the new manager worked for ESPN.

“I only respect him and know him from afar,’’ Valentine said. “Getting to know him is going to be fun . . . I’ve seen his individual talents and he’s a game-changer. There are 30 teams that would want David Ortiz in the lineup and we’re one of them and I’m one of the guys who would definitely like to have him there.’’

Good will will only take the Red Sox so far, however. Ortiz is seeking long-term security, pointing to the deals that Adam Dunn received from the White Sox (four years, $56 million) and Victor Martinez from the Tigers (four years, $50 million) last winter.

“Those guys are DHs like I am, let’s be honest,’’ Ortiz said. “To be honest with you, look at what I did. I don’t think I can put myself out of that group.’’

The difference is that Ortiz turned 36 last month. Dunn was 31 when he signed that contract, and Martinez nearly 32. But Ortiz also hit .309 last season with a .953 OPS and 29 home runs. No DH was more productive.

“Do I have to explain what I’m capable of doing? Everybody already knows. I’m not even going to go there,’’ Ortiz said. “We just need to get into an agreement and when that happens, it’s game on.

“Everybody knows what it would take for me to stick around. Hopefully, [the Red Sox] agree with that. It’s out of my hands. It’s up to them.’’

That is not entirely true. The Sox offered Ortiz salary arbitration Nov. 23, and he has until Wednesday to decide whether to accept.

If he accepts, Ortiz would be guaranteed a contract for 2012 at a raise from the $12.5 million he made last season. He will meet with his agent, Fern Cuza, in New York on Monday to discuss the merits of that idea.

“We’re thinking about what we’re going to do. We don’t know yet,’’ Ortiz said.

Cuza also plans to sit down with Cherington at the winter meetings in Dallas next week.

Cherington said Thursday that Ortiz was a “remarkable’’ player.

“Did he say that? Tell him to sign me then,’’ Ortiz said with a hearty chuckle. “Ben knows me and he knows what I can do.’’

Ortiz understands that the search for a new manager occupied a lot of Cherington’s time in recent weeks. But he also expressed some disappointment at his situation not being addressed.

“It works both ways,’’ Ortiz said. “It’s not easy to pick up a manager. It takes some time. But when it comes down to players, you know what you have and you know what you need. It’s not like you need a manager first to decide whether you want to have somebody come back.

“I know it has been a little confusing. But while we were searching for a manager, we don’t have [Jonathan] Papelbon anymore. Now we need a closer.’’

Ortiz said he is prepared to move on to another team if that’s his best option. There hasn’t been pressing interest, he acknowledged, but the Orioles are among the teams that have inquired.

“That’s something you have to keep in mind. This is a business,’’ he said. “I’ve said more than a thousand times that I would like to come back to Boston. If that doesn’t work, I need to see what is out there.’’

But, he stressed, the Red Sox are his focus.

“We can be dangerous again,’’ Ortiz said. “We’re capable of great things on the field. I’m not part of it right now but I want to be.’’

Valentine also spoke to Tim Wakefield at the event. Like Ortiz, he is a free agent. Before he saw Ortiz, Valentine pulled Wakefield off to the side for a conversation.

Valentine quickly became the center of attention at the dinner function he attended, shaking hands with players from other teams and posing for photographs.

“It’s been a whirlwind,’’ Valentine said. “I feel like it’s almost like studying for college exams again, pulling the all-nighters.’’

Valentine will return to his home in Connecticut today then travel to Dallas tomorrow. The new manager of the Red Sox, it seems, is indefatigable.

“It’s pretty good that he came all the way here,’’ Ortiz said. “Like I said, good stuff.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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