His timing is still off, his MVP-caliber production still absent after a week being poked and prodded to determine the source of heart palpitations.
"Some fastballs got by him that don't normally get by him. That will change," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It was good to see him out there."
Ortiz went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, but his return was good news enough for Boston following one of the worst months ever for a franchise that has seen plenty of bad ones. Injured closer Jonathan Papelbon got good news from doctors and Kason Gabbard further cheered the reeling Red Sox with seven innings of three-hit ball to help them beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0.
It was the first major league victory for Gabbard (1-3) and the second consecutive strong outing from a starter pressed into service due to a litany of injuries to the Red Sox staff. Julian Tavarez, making just his second start, held the White Sox to two runs in six innings on Monday.
"Who ... is pitching against us tomorrow night?" Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said, laughing, in the visitor's clubhouse after the game.
The White Sox dropped 1½ games behind Minnesota in the AL wild-card standings and Boston remained six games behind the Twins.
Ortiz led the major leagues with 47 homers when he was pulled from the lineup last Monday before a game in Oakland, complaining of heart palpitations. He was hospitalized for two days last week to undergo extensive heart testing; he was released Thursday and wore a heart monitor over the weekend.
"The ongoing monitoring of David Ortiz has not identified any further problem," team physician Dr. Thomas Gill said in a statement.
Ortiz was not available for comment after the game. But he said before batting practice that he was no longer wearing a heart monitor is not taking any medication -- just "rice and beans."
"I'm just happy to be out of the house," he said. "Everything's fine, that's the most important thing."
The Red Sox fell out of the playoff hunt with a 9-21 record in August that included a five-game sweep by the New York Yankees at Fenway. Then Ortiz complained about his heart, and rookie Jon Lester was diagnosed with cancer.
But the bad news started turning around on Monday, when catcher Jason Varitek and right fielder Trot Nixon returned from stints on the disabled list. Ortiz returned on Tuesday night, and during the game the team announced that Papelbon, who left Friday's game with pain in his shoulder, had escaped serious injury.
"No tears. That's huge," said the rookie right-hander, who was diagnosed with a tired shoulder -- technically, a "transient subluxation event."
"Sublux-something or other," Papelbon joked. "I tried to pay attention, but I didn't go to school to be a doctor. All I'm listening for is the word 'tear.'"
Gabbard (1-3) allowed two walks and struck out six. Mike Timlin pitched two innings for his fourth save -- his second since Papelbon went out with a tired right shoulder.
Javier Vazquez (11-9) pitched a three-hitter, struck out 11 and retired his last 13 batters in his first complete game since July 6, 2005. He is winless in five starts.
"I think Javy threw the game of his life," Guillen said. "It's a shame he pitched that way and we didn't put it together."
Boston scored when Nixon, who spent more than a month on the disabled list, doubled with one out in the fourth and came home on Coco Crisp's single.
Gabbard was perfect through three innings and then got help from his defense, with three double plays, including a third-to-first combo in which Kevin Youkilis caught the last out of the sixth while falling backward into foul territory.
- Ryan Sweeney singled in the sixth for his first major league hit. He added another single in the eighth.
- Timlin made his 287th appearance for the Red Sox, passing Dick Radatz to move into second on the team's career list. Bob Stanley appeared in 552 games for Boston.
- Chicago recalled activated reliever Dustin Hermanson from the 15-day DL.
- Jermaine Dye, who left Monday's game in the seventh inning with a tight back, did not play.
- The Red Sox and Padres completed last week's trade that sent LHP David Wells to San Diego, with Boston getting Double-A C George Kottaras as the player to be named.