05/21/10 9:20 AM ET
Ortiz: 'You've got to ride with me'
Red Sox DH says early-season criticism was unjustified
By Bobbie Dittmeier / MLB.com
"I was mad. I was mad. I was totally, absolutely mad," Ortiz told WEEI Radio, referring to Francona's decision to pinch-hit for the designated hitter in an April 27 game at Toronto. "You know that if you ride with me, you're going to get two things. Either you're going to win or you're going to die with me. That's the way it is. That's the way it's been as long as I've been here.
"You have to believe in your players. Period. You chose to have me on your roster since day one. You've got to ride with me."
Ortiz was asked if that meant that Francona had lost faith in Ortiz, who at the time was batting .154 with one homer and four RBIs in 15 games, the Boston designated hitter said "I turned the page already" and suggested that he won't accept being pinch-hit for in the future.
"It's not going to be like that anymore," he said. "I guarantee you that."
Ortiz entered this season coming off a difficult year, during which his batting average didn't reach .200 to stay until mid-June. He managed to notch 99 RBIs but finished with a .238 average.
Those struggles continued into this season. He finished April with a .143 average, and he had also been pinch-hit for in a game against Texas on April 20. Francona sent Mike Lowell to the plate in each instance.
Ortiz lashed out the media early in the season for suggesting that his days as a productive hitter were over, and he was critical of the media again on Thursday.
"It's not the fans. It's not the fans that come out with that. It's the media," he said. "It's the media that's the one that thinks they've got everything figured out. You've got guys sitting down out there that have never played the game ever before, talking about how they think I'm supposed to leave, that you are done, that you can't hit any more, that you can do this or you can do that. You never hit before in your life ever. You know nothing about that. ... I'm right here, working hard, doing my thing. I'm not paying attention to any of [that] anymore."
Ortiz told the Boston Globe: "We're a quarter of the way [through the season] and they gave up on me way before that."
The 34-year-old Ortiz told WEEI that he would like to play a few more years, but insisted that he will be the one who decides when it's time to retire.
"To tell you the truth, I'm going to be done when I've decided that I'm done, not when the media says that I'm done," he said. "I'm nobody to tell you when you're going to be done. I don't know anything about your job. ... You're done when you're done, not when somebody says that you have to be done. That's been the case here. You struggle for a month, and everybody starts killing you. 'You're done. You can't hit any more.' ... If you pay attention to that, you'll never come out of it."
But Ortiz told the Globe that he has paid attention to what's been written and said, and that it has affected him.
"This feeling I've had since the first day I walked into camp," he said. "I knew it wasn't going to be good. I got that feeling. And you're not supposed to play baseball like that, though. To begin with, this is not me."
Despite the fact that he opted to start the right-handed-hitting Lowell at DH against Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano on Thursday, Francona said he's liked what he's seen from Ortiz at the plate recently.
"[It's] a little bit of everything," Francona said. "He's got balance. He's got confidence, driving the ball out of the ballpark both left-center, center, right. He's been good. Unfortunately, two games into the season, we had to answer a lot of questions, which actually gets old. ... But now I think he is getting hot. That's great news for us. It's very welcome. We need that production, and it's going to help us win games."
Bobbie Dittmeier is an editor/producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.