Francona turns to Lowell over slumping Papi
With series opener on line, manager pinch-hits for slugger
BOSTON -- Even when things hit rock bottom for David Ortiz in the early part of last season, the one thing Red Sox manager Terry Francona never did was pinch-hit for the big slugger.
But with the game on the line on Tuesday night and the Red Sox badly needing a win, Francona looked at the best matchup for his team and had Mike Lowell pinch-hit for Ortiz against Rangers lefty Darren Oliver. Lowell worked a walk in the seventh, though Boston didn't score that inning. It did go on to win the game, 7-6, snapping a five-game losing streak.
It was the first time in Francona's managerial tenure with the Red Sox -- which started in 2004 -- that he hit for Ortiz with a meaningful game hanging in the balance. Ortiz went 0-for-3 on Tuesday and is hitting .146 with no homers and two RBIs. The slugger was unavailable for comment after the game.
"[Lowell] had taken Oliver deep twice," said Francona. "Again, we're trying to do everything in our power to win games. It didn't happen for us that inning, but it happened later."
How difficult is it for Francona to pinch-hit for a player of Ortiz's stature?
"You know what, if you ask me if I enjoy doing something like that, of course not," Francona said. "He's very prideful. I understand that. Again, we're trying to win games. I think players understand that. It's certainly our responsibility to communicate that to players, but we need to try to win games. On the flip side of that, Mikey Lowell is a very prideful guy, too. I think sometimes that's getting lost in the shuffle, because he's been so professional about things. We just need to try to put our best guys out on the field."
Lowell didn't have time to analyze the situation.
"I didn't know who I was going to hit for. I just wanted to be ready," Lowell said. "David, [Jeremy] Hermida and [Josh] Reddick, that's three out of four guys from six through nine who are lefties. So I didn't know it was David. When Victor [Martinez's] ball blooped in, they just told me, 'Mike, you're up.' I didn't really have time to analyze it. I'm just focused on being ready when they want me to and trying to have a good at-bat. I was pleased that I was able to lay off some pitcher's pitches there, keep the rally going. I had a good approach."
With lefty Matt Harrison pitching for the Rangers on Wednesday night, Lowell is expected to be the designated hitter in place of Ortiz.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.