05/15/09 9:32 PM ET
Ortiz gets a breather after frustrating night
Slugger receives game off after 0-for-7 performance
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
For only the second time this year, Ortiz got a game off, and it came after a conversation between the designated hitter and manager Terry Francona that was prompted by Ortiz's 0-for-7, 12-men-left-on-base effort Thursday night in Anaheim.
Ortiz, who also sat out on May 7, declined to speak with reporters, but Francona offered nothing but positives when discussing the decision to give Ortiz a night -- or more -- off.
"It's something where maybe stepping back will help," Francona said of Ortiz, who still hasn't hit a home run and is batting .208 with 15 RBIs. "Maybe I was too late in doing this. I hope not. But he needs to take a deep breath. Even when David is struggling, I still love his bat in our lineup. I just think today was an obvious one after talking to him."
Francona had Rocco Baldelli starting at DH and batting sixth, with J.D. Drew batting third, Jason Bay fourth and Mike Lowell fifth.
Naturally, since Ortiz has been so ineffective this year, there are rumblings all over about what is causing this slump, whether it be declining bat speed. or the fact that he's 33 years old.
Lowell, who went through a rough season in Florida in 2005, when he hit .236 with eight homers and 58 RBIs, said he doesn't believe anything's wrong with Ortiz other than what might be in his head at the moment.
"The fact that he cares so much almost makes it worse," Lowell said. "You can see he's not in sync. When you're not in sync, every good pitch is fouled off, and then you get behind in counts, and it seems like you can't win.
"We all still have confidence in David. I don't buy that the bat speed is slow. You don't lose bat speed in four months."
Francona agreed, saying he's heard so many theories about Ortiz lately that he has been forced to ignore all of them.
"I don't see the things other people are seeing," Francona said. "He's just not hitting the ball. There's too many opinions that I don't understand."
What Francona does understand is that the hands-off approach might work.
The plan is to let Ortiz sit back and relax for a day or two, work back into a successful game or two and let his confidence and hopefully his season build up once again. Francona said that Ortiz has been working overtime with hitting coach Dave Magadan to figure out what might be wrong mechanically.
"I don't think he can work harder," Francona said. "It's hard for all of us. We care about him. His teammates care about him. And when something like this happens in Boston, it's probably more [scrutinized] than in other cities."
Lowell said Ortiz should treat his next game as if it were Opening Day, try to get a few hits, forget about his statistics and keep the momentum going from there.
"He just needs a day where he squares up the ball three or four times," Lowell said. "You gotta take it from point A, give him a mental break, get going again and see what happens."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.