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ON BASEBALL

Ortiz bunting made it special

David Ortiz follows through after launching his first-inning home run in yesterday’s win at Toronto. Big Papi’s other hit, a bunt single to down the third-base line against the shift, was a hot postgame topic, however.
David Ortiz follows through after launching his first-inning home run in yesterday’s win at Toronto. Big Papi’s other hit, a bunt single to down the third-base line against the shift, was a hot postgame topic, however. (Mike Cassase / Reuters)

TORONTO -- Having played the previous nine seasons with Barry Bonds, J.T. Snow is no stranger to watching opposing managers drastically reconfigure their defenses in an attempt to stop the Babe stalker.

But no, the Red Sox first baseman said, he never saw Bonds resort to what David Ortiz did yesterday to try to keep the Toronto Blue Jays honest, dropping down a bunt single in the sixth inning of Boston's 6-3 win with the Jays' third baseman, Troy Glaus, playing where the shortstop normally would be.

''He wouldn't do it," Snow said of Bonds. ''I don't think he ever did. Maybe once."

Alex Cora once played shortstop for the Dodgers, the Giants' hated rivals. Barry bunt? Cora gave it his best ''Are you kidding me?" look.

''He didn't even try to go the other way against the shift," Cora said. ''He did it once [hit to left field]. He gave me a look like, 'C'mon, why the shift? I said, 'Hey, we'd rather have you hit a double than you hit a home run.'

''He could have gone [to left] at will, but he doesn't get paid to do that."

Rudy Seanez pitched for the Padres, the team against which Bonds has hit 81 of his 709 home runs, by far the most he's hit against any team. Barry bunt?

''I've never seen it," Seanez said. ''Hit to left? Not intentionally."

Ted Williams, of course, faced the most famous shift of all, the Boudreau shift, named after its designer, Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau, and got ripped for not going the other way more often. But the only inside-the-park home run of his career, which came in a pennant-clinching 1-0 win over the Indians in 1946, flew over the head of a left fielder playing shallow in the shift.

''I remember when [Ty] Cobb criticized me for not trying to punch the ball to left field away from Boudreau's shift," Williams once said to his most famous biographer, John Underwood. ''Boy, I thought Cobb was an old crab."

The Sox gathered yesterday not to condemn Ortiz but to praise him, though Big Papi's two-run home run in the first inning, which he hit to left, away from the stacked deck on the right side, proved to be of much greater value to the Sox in yesterday's win than the bunt, the second bunt single of Ortiz's career.

As a stratagem, Kevin Youkilis's hit-and-run single in the eighth, which led to the team's fifth run, also meant more to this win. But as a conversation starter, there was no beating The Bunt.

''We were saying on the bench, if he bunts it a little harder, he'll have a double," Snow said. ''Instead of laying it down, just push it with a little oomph, because Glaus is way over. That thing would roll all the way to the wall, especially on the turf.

''He could hit .400 if he did that. He could be the first guy [since Williams] to hit .400."

Alex Gonzalez had led off the sixth with a single, but two outs later, he had not advanced when Ortiz strode to the plate and Jays manager John Gibbons, having seen Ortiz take starter Josh Towers deep already twice this season, signaled for a lefthander, Scott Schoeneweis. After Ortiz pushed his bunt to the left side, Schoeneweis fell behind the righthanded hitting Manny Ramírez, 2-and-0, before issuing an intentional pass. He escaped, however, when Trot Nixon grounded to first.

''It's a great play," Snow said. ''They just brought Schoeneweis in the game. Now it forces their hand. They walk Manny with guys on first and second. You don't see guys walk [intentionally in that situation].

''But that's the way it is nowadays. If Trot gets a hit off him, the manager has a lot easier time answering you guys [reporters], lefty on lefty. If he gives up a hit to Manny, the manager gets grilled."

Cora also voiced his approval.

''Great play, man, but you don't want him bunting too often. It's a good play, man, but not every time."

Seanez said he was looking for Ortiz to bunt last week in Fenway against Joe Maddon and the Devil Rays and their four-outfielder alignment.

''That was awesome, man," he said of watching the big man drop one down yesterday. ''That's great when the big guys can do that."

The Sox, of course, would prefer that Ortiz add onto his home run numbers -- eight and counting after he drove an outside changeup from Towers into the left-field seats -- than play little ball. Ortiz admitted his decision to bunt came out of some frustration.

''You do [get frustrated]," he said. ''You hit some balls that should be hits, and the [infielder] playing in right field gets you out.

''I'm going to bunt like a [expletive] this year, watch," he said. ''But that's what they want me to do, bunt."

Bunting is one of the things Sox center fielder Willie Harris does best, but yesterday he tipped his cap to Ortiz.

''You know what?" Harris said. ''He caught everybody in the stands off guard. Some people say he will do it, but nobody really expects it. Nobody really knew he was going to do that today but him.

''He's got some good bunting skills. Whenever I'm screwed up bunting, I'm going to go talk to Big Papi."

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