When fans think of the Boston Red Sox, many players quickly come to mind: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester and new comers Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are certainly some of them.

But no player has become a bigger icon and face of the Red Sox then the man known around baseball as Big Papi, David Ortiz.

Since 2003, Ortiz has essentially become the heart and soul of the Red Sox for eight years and counting.

From his home run power, to his intimidating physical stature, to his big bright smile, Big Papi is certainly a player that has become recognizable around the world.

Who could forget those two magical nights during the American League Championship Series in October 2004, when Ortiz not only won Game 4 for the Red Sox on a game-winning home run in the bottom of the twelfth inning, but helped them win Game 5 as well, getting the game-winning hit just one night later in the bottom of the fourteenth inning.

Besides being a six-time All-Star and two-time World Series Champion, Ortiz has averaged just about 30 HRs over his past four seasons in Boston, hitting .270 with 32 HRs and 102 RBI in 145 games in 2010.

Now at 35-years-old, Big Papi will once again try and silence those fans who believe he will struggle during the 2011 season.

Does Ortiz have one more big year left though?

Make no mistake about it, Ortiz has struggled for three straight years at the start of the season, so much so that many baseball fans believed he would never be able to recover. 

Here are his last three stat lines in the month of April over the past three seasons:

  • April 2008: .198  5 HR  21 RBI in 96 ABs
  • April 2009: .230  0 HR  12 RBI in 87 ABs
  • April 2010: .143  1 HR  4  RBI in 56 ABs

Even with those dismal numbers, Ortiz has yet to be bothered by an early season struggle, breaking out the majority of the time after the July All-Star break, having just enough time to help the Red Sox and their playoff push down the stretch.

His days with a 1.000 OPS maybe over, but Big Papi has still been as reliable and consistent a player as he was three years ago.

Sure, Ortiz is getting up there in age, but being a part of what should be baseball’s best lineup will only help him on his quest to be successful once again.

Even if he fails to hit 20 HRs or drive in 100 RBI, there will be enough pieces in the Red Sox lineup that will help pick up the slack, and kind of shield any struggle left by Ortiz.

There is simply no doubting Big Papi though, as he still has what it takes to be one of the American League’s most feared hitters in 2011.

When it’s all said and done, David Ortiz will simply be the David Ortiz we all know he can be this upcoming season, a guy that cannot only hit 25+ HRs and drive in 100+ RBI, but become the icon and face of the Red Sox yet again in 2011. 

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