Red-hot Papi returns to familiar spot
Red Sox slugger hitting third with Drew, Martinez sidelined
ST. PETERSBURG -- Wednesday night marked the first time in more than a year that Red Sox slugger David Ortiz batted third in manager Terry Francona's lineup. On a night J.D. Drew (hip flexor) and Victor Martinez (bruised left big toe) were both out of the mix, Ortiz was elevated from his usual No. 5 slot in the batting order.
The improved positioning in the batting order was yet another sign of how dramatic Ortiz's resurgence at the plate has been of late. Entering Wednesday's game, Ortiz was hitting .359 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in May, raising his average from .143 to .258 over that span. In the fifth inning Wednesday, Ortiz hit his ninth homer of May and 10th overall, a two-run shot off Matt Garza.
What has been the biggest key to Ortiz's rebound?
"Working, you've got to work," Ortiz said. "Work, work and work. That's all I know. To stay consistent, you've got to just work and keep your head straight. That's about it. I don't feel like I have changed anything. I just feel more confidence. It's all [a matter of], good results give you confidence. That's what I believe. Because when you work, work, work and work and you don't see no good results, your confidence never shows up."
It is certainly no coincidence that the Red Sox -- who had won six of seven entering Wednesday and 15 of their past 22 -- have gotten hot at the same time as Ortiz.
"I don't think it could ever hurt," Francona said. "The more guys swinging the bat, the better, especially a guy that's as dangerous as David. You're not just talking about singles, you're talking about extra-base hits and home runs."
Ortiz clearly has a lot of confidence these days, good-naturedly exchanging banter with teammates and media members on a regular basis again, just like he did during his prime.
Earlier this season, Francona was forced to answer daily questions about Ortiz's slump. He much prefers discussing the slugger's turnaround.
"I think there's a lot of things," Francona said. "I think what it is, he's a good hitter, and he's gotten himself in more positions physically where he can show his bat speed. I think one thing leads to another. Take a good swing, you feel good about yourself, you have something to show for your at bats, you relax a little bit. I think it all kind of comes hand in hand."
During Ortiz's slump, some theorized that his bat speed had gone down. Nobody is saying that any longer.
"I mean, you hear people say, 'Well, he didn't have bat speed.' Sometimes you get yourself in a position where you can't show it," Francona said. "Your hands are forward, your feet are forward, your head's forward, and the bat head's lagging back. We've all seen it in the last whatever period of time -- the bat head's not lagging. He's shown that ability where he gets that bat head through the zone pretty ferocious, without trying to muscle him to do it."
Ellsbury remains out with soreness in side
ST. PETERSBURG -- The last thing Jacoby Ellsbury wanted so soon after returning from the disabled list was more uncertainty with his health. But that's exactly what has happened for Boston's leadoff man and center fielder, as Ellsbury was out of the lineup for the second successive night because of recurring soreness in his left side.
"It's tough," said Ellsbury. "You work so hard to come back from something and you have a little setback like this. I think I'll know a little bit more information [Thursday], once we get back up to Boston."
Ellsbury was on the disabled list from April 12 until Friday due to a contusion of his left chest, not to mention a hairline fracture in four ribs.
He only had normal soreness in his first three games back in the lineup, but felt some discomfort while taking batting practice before Tuesday's game. Ellsbury felt only minimal improvement Wednesday. He underwent X-rays and a CT scan on Tuesday, which didn't reveal any breaks.
Ellsbury will be examined by the team's medical staff, which has monitored the injury all along.
"Well, I felt pretty good during the game the last three games," Ellsbury said. "I had the scheduled day off [Tuesday]. I just did my normal routine. I was hitting, and it started barking on me. That's when I talked to the trainer and kind of let him know what was going on. Progressively after I was done hitting, it actually got a little worse."
Ellsbury felt better when he woke up Wednesday, but when he tried to test it at the ballpark, he could tell something was still amiss.
"It was kind of barking on me again," said Ellsbury. "We shut it down."
It is too early for Ellsbury or the Red Sox to know if he will need to return to the disabled list.
"I hope not," said manager Terry Francona. "I think before we say that, I'm not sure. I'd like to know what it is first. We're just kind of doing a lot of guessing. We'll take all the pictures that were taken [Tuesday] with us back to Boston. We'll have all the people that have already seen him kind of review everything. I don't know that anything really changes. We're certainly going to try to have everything checked out, but it's probably how he feels. If you feel something, we want to be careful. So that's kind of where we're at."
Ortiz 'crushed' by Lima's death
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the hours leading up to Wednesday night's game, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was still trying to see if he could make things work logistically to attend funeral services later this week in New York for former Major League pitcher Jose Lima, who died of an apparent heart attack Sunday.
"He has my blessing, if he decides [to go]," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "There's actually something in New York and something in the Dominican. I think he would like to try to get to New York, if possible. And I told him he has our blessing if that's what he determines he wants to do."
Ortiz considered Lima a close friend and had been in recent contact with the former righty, who was 37.
"Oh, Lima was like a brother to me," said Ortiz. "We go way back. Man, it's just devastating to know that somebody who was doing so good would just go away like that. That crushed me. I was really crushed."
When Ortiz was in the throes of an early-season slump this season, Lima reached out to him.
"I don't think there's one person that can say anything bad about Lima. Lima was a guy full of great spirit," Ortiz said. "He brings good things, wherever he was going. We talked a while back when things wasn't going too good for me. He was trying to tell me something, but all he did was just make me laugh. Everything coming out of his mouth was funny. But that was him, man. Just a person full of happiness. Just seeing him just go away like that, it hurt."
It wasn't that long ago that Ortiz and Lima spoke for what proved to be the final time.
"I talked to him, I would say, a few weeks ago," Ortiz said. "He reached out, because he doesn't have my phone number so he reached out through Torii Hunter because he was living in L.A. Yeah, man, I remember he said he was about to send a letter to me because he couldn't get a hold of me. He was the best. He was the best. Rest in peace, man."
Victor, Drew join Ellsbury on bench
ST. PETERSBURG -- It is times like Wednesday when Red Sox manager Terry Francona is most grateful for having a deep bench. Not only was Jacoby Ellsbury out of the mix with recurring soreness on his left side, but catcher Victor Martinez (bruised left big toe) and J.D. Drew (hip flexor) were also out of the mix.
While center fielder Mike Cameron was back in the lineup for the second consecutive day since coming off the disabled list, he was flanked by Jeremy Hermida in left field and Darnell McDonald in right. Jason Varitek caught in place of Martinez.
Martinez, who sustained the injury when he was struck by a foul ball from Jason Bartlett in the second inning on Monday, said he felt improvement. The problem is that he can't put his spikes on without being in agony.
"Hopefully, once I get better with the shoes on, I'll be in there," said Martinez. "But we're in great hands with Jason [Varitek]."
In a perfect world, the Red Sox will get Martinez back on Friday night, when knuckleballer Tim Wakefield takes the mound against the Royals at Fenway Park.
Varitek handled Wakefield early in his career, but hasn't worked with him since catching him for one inning in 2008.
The rest for Drew was mainly precautionary. He has had ailments to both legs in recent weeks, in addition to the hip problem.
"This is a day where I think you take a day instead of having a guy go too far and then having [to miss] three or four," said Francona. "I think the last couple days, it's been the hip. But I think he's done a good job of playing through it, knowing that we needed him. Again, I just think looking at we're on turf, we're going to get home at 4 [in the morning], you can pick a day. So, in my opinion, doing it before something worse happens is a better idea. Sometimes you try to go too far and you lose three days."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.