Big Papi assures fans: I'll be back
Slugger admits pressure of living up to his reputation
ST. PETERSBURG -- Slugger David Ortiz knows all about that goose egg he had in the home run category entering Sunday's game, and he is also aware that the critics want more. So, too, does Big Papi.
His message to a restless Red Sox Nation? Be patient, and the results will be worth waiting for.
Despite reports of his demise at the age of 33, Ortiz is confident that there is a lot more noise in his bat. Before Sunday, he had shied away from speaking to the media this weekend.
"I don't need to talk -- I need to do things," Ortiz said. "I will do things, believe me. Regardless, I will. It's going to come slowly. What I can do in a week -- I'm not trying to do that in one day anymore."
Ortiz concedes that the pressure of living up to his own reputation was forcing him to try to do too much earlier in the season.
"I was. I'm not going to lie to you. I was trying to get five hits in one at-bat," he said. "Right now I'm just taking a walk. If they don't want to give me [anything] to hit, I won't swing. If you give me something, I'm going to try to hit it. If I don't hit a homer today, I'll try to hit one tomorrow."
Does the home run drought weigh on him?
"It gets in your head for a minute, it does," he said. "Of course. You've always been a home run kind of guy. When you have 100 at-bats and you haven't hit one out, you'll be like, 'What the [heck] am I doing?' At the same time, you have to see it this way. It's not like you're just stepping up to the plate and not trying. You're trying. Maybe at home, it looks easy, but it's not. Like I say, I'm just going to be patient and keep on swinging and putting together some good at-bats. Let things take care of their own."
Just as he was when he was putting up monster numbers, Ortiz remains a batting cage junkie. He will keep taking extra swings until things start clicking.
The left-handed masher entered the day hitting .215 with 12 RBIs. After starting to get into a bit of a groove on the last homestand, he had just four hits in the first 21 at-bats of this road trip. Three of them were singles. He was 0-for-8 in the first three games at Tropicana Field.
"I'm not happy. Why should I be?" Ortiz said. "But I'll tell you what, dog, I'm the kind of guy that, [the first] 100 at-bats -- in two weeks, you can [forget about it]. I'm just going to keep the flow, keep playing the game, not worry about too many things. I don't want to be listening to all the negativity, all the [stuff] that comes with it. It seems like it's never enough."
When it was pointed out that Ortiz has barely faced any negativity during his run of production with the Red Sox, which started in 2003, he had a quick answer.
"I've been banging since I've been here," he said. "As soon as you slow down a little bit, it's like they're expecting it. Things like that either make you or break you. You have to be aware of whatever. I'm the kind of guy that, I try, I work every day. The only result you're going to get when you work is what you expect -- sooner or later. But you will [get it]. That's what's up."
Though Ortiz knows the nature of Boston -- in fact, he has said many times how much he embraces it -- he thinks that his track record should allow for fans to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"This is my seventh year here. Whoever doesn't know me at this point ... What can I tell them? What have you been watching, the Anaheim Angels?" Ortiz said. "It will come. It will come. I'm finally relaxing. There's things that -- they'll get taken care of on their own. There's some other things, you need to get it done. I know this ballclub, they count on me big-time. I can't go crazy and give up just because in 24 games, I haven't done [anything]. What is going to happen the other 140?"
Even during his slump, Ortiz notes that pitchers still work him carefully. He mentions that even in blowouts, they give him very little to hit because of who he is and what he's done.
"They always pitch me the way I won't hurt them, but I will," he said. "You better write that [stuff] down right now, I will. I'll be back."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.