Notes: With sore legs, Ortiz scuffling
Sox All-Star hitter hasn't homered at Fenway since April
BOSTON -- Believe it or not, heading into Wednesday's game against the Devil Rays, the calendar had flipped over three times since David Ortiz last put a baseball over the wall at Fenway Park. It was a spring afternoon -- April 21 against the Yankees -- when Ortiz last cleared the outer limits of the ballpark he affectionately refers to as "the house."
Entering Wednesday's matinee at Fenway, Ortiz had gone 112 at-bats without hitting a long ball at home. In fact, overall, Ortiz has been in a little bit of a power outage. He is homerless in his last 46 at-bats. From May 10-June 3, Ortiz went 69 at-bats without going deep, his longest dry spell since joining the Red Sox.
Ortiz admitted at that time that his legs were cramping to the point that he was being deprived of his some of his power. Are they still an issue?
Big Papi told the Boston Herald on Tuesday that his right quad was troubling him at times, but also made it clear that he wasn't using it as an excuse for his production (13 homers, 49 RBIs) being way below the pace of a year ago, when he smashed a team-record 54 home runs. Ortiz also told the newspaper that he wouldn't consider skipping the All-Star Game because of the responsibility he feels to all the fans who voted for him.
"I think he has had to take care of his legs," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He went through that period at the end of May when they were bothering him, but he's really done a good job with his legs. I think there are some times when he's hitting where he's not incorporating his legs like he usually does. I agree with that.
"And, again, does he feel like a sprinter? Probably not. I don't know that you can carry that big body all year and feel like that. But I don't think that's an issue of his health. We wouldn't send him out there. We wouldn't do that. We communicate pretty well with these guys."
Part of that communication was on display earlier this week when Ortiz went into Francona's office and held a lengthy chat with the manager about his recent drop in production.
"Sometimes, your body is not in sync," said Francona. "I have to think about how he said this the other day, sometimes your body is not in sync; your hands, sometimes you don't trust your hands as much as you want to."
But there's no mistaking the fact that Francona still trusts Ortiz as much as ever.
"He's fine." Francona said. "David is, if not the, one of the best hitters in the game, and most dangerous. All the adjectives you want to use. And he's going through a little bit of a rough spot. He's phenomenal. He's just going through a little bit of a rough time and, for various reasons, probably at different times. That's how this game is."
In perhaps a symbol of how out of sync Ortiz is at the plate these days, he accidentally threw his bat several rows into the stands while striking out in his first at-bat of Wednesday's game.
Manny gets rest: Like Ortiz, Manny Ramirez has also been well below his normal production of late. But that was not why the star left fielder was out of the lineup on Wednesday. Ramirez, who leads the Red Sox in games played (80), simply told his manager before Tuesday's game that this day game -- coming on the heels of a night game -- would be a good time for a break.
"He's played a lot," Francona said. "I think he's on pace for 156 [games]. That's a bit extreme. So, again, we've talked about this, any time Manny doesn't play, I can come up with 100 reasons why we never want him to miss a game. He's such a great hitter, and when he's hitting, he's such a great threat."
Jacoby Ellsbury got the start in left field. Though Ellsbury is a center fielder, he did get two starts in left for Triple-A Pawtucket this season.
"He's a good outfielder," Francona said. "If you can play the outfield and you take balls for about five minutes, that's an easy place to play [at Fenway]. He can make that left field look very little."
Kevin Youkilis, who has been battling left quad woes in recent days, was also out of the lineup. Eric Hinske played first base.
Rotation alignment: The Red Sox have set their rotation coming out of the All-Star break. Tim Wakefield will be first out of the gate next Thursday for the start of a four-game series against the Blue Jays. Julian Tavarez gets the ball Friday, followed by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett. Kason Gabbard starts a three-game series against the Royals on July 16.
The way it sets up, Wakefield will take his turn on seven days of rest. Tavarez, who makes his final start of the half on Friday against the Tigers, will be on six days' rest. Matsuzaka, who makes the final start of the half on Sunday, gets one extra day of rest for his start. Beckett, after presumably pitching in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, will be on regular rest. Gabbard will have the longest break, going from July 7-15 without pitching.
Francona said that some of his pitchers will come in and do some throwing at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, which is the end of the All-Star break.
Coming up: Beckett (11-2, 3.38 ERA) will close out his stellar first half by pitching the finale of this three-game series against the Devil Rays on Thursday night. He'll be opposed by left-hander J.P. Howell (1-2, 5.19 ERA).
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.