If there’s one guy on whose shoulders our 2009 fortunes will surely rise or fall, it’s Our Man Ortiz. Last season, suffering through injuries and the loss of Manny–the Gilligan to his Skipper–Papi at times looked more like Clark Kent than the Superman we’ve come to know and love. The guy who leaps tall buildings, uses the shin bones of opposing pitchers to pick the post-game spread from his teeth, and always comes up huge when we need it most.

Could he continue to decline in 2009? Sure as Bob’s your uncle. He’s another year older (albeit only 33) and will have the added burden of knowing that in post-Mannyland, we’re looking squarely at him for the big bat dramatics.

Something tells me, however, that the guy’s in for a stellar 2009. Of course, I also thought that by this point in my life I’d be running a cozy bed and breakfast in Milan with Amalie Benjamin, so take it for what it’s worth. But by practically all accounts, Papi’s come into camp looking good. And he’d no doubt like to show up the naysayers. In fact, if I’m a pitcher in the American League, I find nothing more ominous than Ortiz’ recent pledge:

“I just want to be healthy like I am right now,” he says. “If I’m healthy, I know I can do some damage.”

Put the guy down for 40 home runs this season. I’m calling it right now.

In other news, to celebrate Conan O’Brien’s last day on the job at Late Night, we’re revisiting his now-famous interview with–who else?–Ortiz himself.

Godspeed in L.A., Conan. Here’s hoping you bring the Pimpbot and Masturbating Bear with you. Oh, and good luck to the guy who’ll be taking your place.