David Ortiz expected to return to the Red Sox on April 19

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David Ortiz continues to make steady recent progress in his recovery from heel inflammation.

According to beat writer Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, the veteran designated hitter is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday at Triple-A Pawtucket and is on track to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on April 19.

Ortiz has been playing in extended spring training games for the past few days in south Florida and should be cleared for major league action after making around 20-30 minor league at-bats.

The 37-year-old hit .318/.415/.611 with 23 homers and 60 RBI in 90 games last season. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes have been getting most of the playing time at designated hitter in Big Papi’s absence.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.