David Ortiz homers at Triple-A, declares himself ready to rejoin the Red Sox

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David Ortiz homered this afternoon in a Triple-A game and declared his minor-league rehab assignment over, telling Tim Britton of the Providence Journal: “I think I go back to the big team tomorrow. … It’s time.”

Ortiz and the Red Sox have targeted Friday as his return date for a while now, but some recent heel soreness put that in question briefly. Ortiz went 4-for-18 overall on his rehab stint and indicated that he’ll need occasional days off, but feels he’s ready to hit. His last MLB game was August 24 and he’s played just one MLB game since mid-July.

Boston has primarily used Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava at designated hitter, with Mike Napoli also making a pair of starts there. Ortiz’s return likely means Jackie Bradley Jr. will head back to Triple-A and Gomes and Nava will split time in left field.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.