A gentleman off the field, a player unreservedly humble about the opportunity to play baseball for a living, Ramon Ortiz walked away from the diamond in tears on Sunday night with the realization that his major league career had likely come to an abrupt end.
Pitching to Chase Headley in the third inning at Petco Park, the right-hander folded his body over his left knee in pain as Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and the training staff rushed from the dugout. Ortiz, 40, rose on his own power before they arrived, strode to the back of the mound, threw his glove to the ground in frustration, pointed to his elbow, and ultimately succumbed to the emotion of the moment.
Watch: Blue Jays win series finale in San Diego
Witnessing from the bullpen in left field, relief pitcher Steve Delabar felt instant sympathy for Ortiz, as one who’s own career was threatened by a broken elbow sustained while pitching on June 30, 2009. He turned to teaching school part-time and did not play again, until 2011.
“I said a prayer right on the spot,” said Delabar, part of the bullpen crew that held the Padres to two hits and no runs in nine innings, as the Blue Jays beat the Padres in 11 innings, 7-4. “You never want to see it happen, especially to a guy like Ramon. He has a good heart. He plays the game hard.”
Ortiz had vacated the clubhouse by the time writers were allowed entry, post-game. He’s being sent to Florida for a MRI to determine the extent of the injury, a suspected torn ligament. Mark DeRosa, in the second life of his own career after having wrist surgery while playing with the Giants in 2010, started the 11 inning with a solo homer off Brad Boxberger.
“Not to compare myself to what Ramon is going through, but when you have an injury like that [late in a career], you wonder, is that it? Is this the last time I’m taking the uniform off?” said DeRosa, 38.
Ortiz departed with Toronto trailing, 4-1. The Jays would come back to send the game into extra innings with another stellar bullpen performance, Edwin Encarnacion’s 16th homer, and a two-run double by Adam Lind, one of baseball’s hottest hitters with seven multi-hit performances during an eight-game streak.
During the series, including a 17-inning loss on Friday, the bullpen held San Diego to one run in 22-2/3 innings. Six relievers appeared Sunday, with Casey Janssen (1-0) picking up the win and Aaron Loup recording his second save.
San Diego left fielder Carlos Quentin had extended the game for the Padres with a spectacular over-the-head catch of Melky Cabrera’s line drive in the eighth inning, crashing headlong into the outfield fence and saving at least one run, probably two. DeRosa’s solo homer, off a 3-1 pitch, thrilled a lingering crowd of vacationing blue-shirted Canadians most of the Padres fans having left the stadium.
“Part of me wanted to take [the next pitch] to go to 3-2 … but I’d seen the first four pitches, and I saw them good, so I took a flyer,” he said.
The Jays (24-33) continue the interleague West Coast swing with two games against the Giants in San Francisco, on Tuesday and Wednesday. With Josh Johnson (triceps) returning from the disabled list to pitch Tuesday against Tim Lincecum, and Brandon Morrow presumably returning from his forearm strain when due off the DL, it’s uncertain whether Ortiz would have received another start. He has allowed seven homers in the last 10 innings.
However, compassion ruled the day, in the immediate aftermath.
“He’s been in this game a long time, he’s 40 and he’s been a pretty healthy guy,” Gibbons said. “He’s a winner, a champ, and I feel for him.”
Ortiz, from the Dominican Republic, pitched for eight teams in 12 seasons, and won a World Series ring with the Angels in 2002. He’d been out of the majors last season, and signed by the Jays this season to bolster the rotation at Buffalo, the club’s new Triple-A affiliate.
Due to injuries in the rotation, the Jays brought him up twice. His start against Boston on May 10 had been his first since July 10, 2011 for the Chicago Cubs, and his win against the Giants on May 15 his first as a starter since April 17, 2007.
Ortiz had celebrated his 40 birthday on May 23, been designated for assignment six days later and assigned to Buffalo on May 31, only to be brought back to the Blue Jays to start in place of the injured Morrow.
In the second inning, shortstop Munenori Kawasaki bobbled a probable double-play grounder, giving the Padres an extra out. After Jedd Gyorko hit a run-scoring double, Gibbons had the No. 8 hitter, Will Venable, walked intentionally. The next batter, pitcher Edinson Volquez, hit Ortiz's first pitch for his first major league home run, a three-run blast into the left-field bleachers.
Notes: Jose Bautista’s opposite-field run-scoring double in the 11th snapped an 0-for-19 streak; he has two hits in 26 at-bats. … Cabrera returns to San Francisco for the first time since being suspended 50 games last August, for testing positive for testosterone.
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