BOSTON -- The Red Sox will give their fans a warm ride down memory lane on May 28 when they welcome many of the players from the 2004 World Series championship squad.
Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Kevin Millar, Mike Timlin, Jason Varitek, Keith Foulke, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield and Pedro Martinez are all confirmed to be in attendance. Star slugger David Ortiz is the only player from the 2004 team still in a Red Sox uniform.
The ceremony will take place before that night's game against the Braves, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of when Boston broke an 86-year drought without a World Series championship.
While several of those former players have been back in Boston in recent years for club events, this is the first time Damon will take part in a ceremony with the club since he left as a free agent following the 2005 season.
Damon was a hero in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, belting two home runs, including a grand slam.
"Pretty incredible," Damon said recently. "That's definitely going to be the defining moment of my career. Yes, there's other great things, but the fact that you helped get the franchise a chance to win a World Series, that didn't come around too often in Boston."
It was Damon who dubbed the team "Idiots" in the midst of their championship run in reference to the zany personalities that made up that team.
After Damon left Boston to play for the Yankees, there was quite a bit of hostility directed at him from the Fenway faithful. But in his most recent appearance at Fenway as a player, in 2012 while playing with the Indians, the Red Sox played a video tribute for their former center fielder, and the crowd gave him a nice applause.
"I know 10 years is a big thing, and I think after that ovation [in 2012], I kind of just let go. I was like, 'OK, it's over,'" Damon said.
Damon has many fond memories of his time in Boston, even if the ending was acrimonious.
"It was the absolute best," Damon said of the camaraderie on the '04 team. "We had fun on the field, had fun off the field, cared about each other and just had a mentality every time we went to a city that other teams were scared of us. That's a pretty good feeling. We knew if we didn't come out with the series win, we knew the other team must have played really good, or they just didn't have much left in the tank after that."
Other members of the 2004 Championship team scheduled to attend the celebration include Abe Alvarez, Ellis Burks, Orlando Cabrera, Cesar Crespo, Lenny DiNardo, Adam Hyzdu, Ron Jackson, Lynn Jones, Gabe Kapler, Curtis Leskanic, Dave McCarty, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Myers, Pokey Reese, Phil Seibel, Jason Shiell, and Scott Williamson.
Manny Ramirez is the one notable absentee, other than Curt Schilling, who has spent the last few months battling cancer.
Ortiz: When weather heats up, Papi heats up
BOSTON -- David Ortiz showcased his usual power in April, belting five homers to tie Mike Napoli for the team lead. But his .250 batting average was a sign that things were yet to completely click for the slugger.
The way Ortiz looks at it, his modest start is a combination of shoddy weather and perhaps being a little too anxious at the plate.
Ortiz does have 14 walks, tying Napoli for the team lead in that department as well. But he thinks he could have even more free passes.
"I'm OK," Ortiz said. "Things have to go back to the old page and be a little more patient. Everyone likes to pitch around me and try to have me chasing pitches out of the strike zone. But I know how to do that. I know how to go back into [being selective]."
Ortiz also looks forward to being warm again.
"Man, mother nature, what's going on? It will go away," Ortiz said of the cold, blustery conditions. "Probably about a week before we get back into that baseball weather. When the weather heats up, Papi heats up. I hit a ball last night, and I swear to God, I wanted to cry. It was so cold, man.
"It is what it is. you don't want to use the weather as an excuse. You definitely don't play the same way in cold weather that you do with that 70, 80-degree weather. You know what I'm saying? We're going to get there."
Red Sox to enter May with improved health
BOSTON -- For the Red Sox, a disjointed first month of their season ended with a rainout.
But as the defending World Series champions prepared for a day-night doubleheader set for Thursday, the first day of May, they did so with the belief they were on the right track.
"Moving in the right direction," manager John Farrell said. "We finished up the month in a positive way, both in terms of health and more consistent offensive approach. We've gone through a number of challenges both performance-wise, health that kept us from being full strength for most of the month. While the win/loss record is less than we would hope for, we're moving in the right direction."
The Red Sox have a 13-14 record after winning three of their first four games, and they are just 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.
"This first month is one of those months where a lot of things happened, but I think it was OK," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said. "I don't think it was that bad -- it could be worse. We kind of evened things out. If you look at this division, pretty much everyone's in the same boat. Everybody got stronger this offseason, everyone has a better team, so it's not like it's going to be easy."
It does get a little easier for the Red Sox now that Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks are back from the disabled list.
"Definitely, those guys are some of the secret weapons we've got, and they always help us out to win games and make the team better definitely; of course they're going to put the team in a better [position]," Ortiz said.