Red Sox notebook

Ortiz gets encouragement

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 13, 2009
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ANAHEIM, Calif. - When David Ortiz checked his phone after Sunday night's game, he found "50 to 70 messages, text messages," from players around the league.

They came from Ryan Howard in Philadelphia and Carlos Delgado and Alex Cora in New York, among others. The messages all had the same tone: Don't give up.

"Everybody," Ortiz said. "Just telling me, you know how good you are and how good you can be. Things aren't always going to be flowers and roses. We learn from our mistakes and what doesn't break you makes you stronger. So don't listen to any of the crap that people have to say. You've done a whole bunch of things to get it done, and you're going to get it done again.

"That was right after one at-bat, popped it up, really frustrated at the time. I guess the camera was all over me and everyone saw that and was kind of worried about me."

After popping up to third base in the fifth inning, Ortiz walked back to the dugout pounding his helmet. He sat in the dugout, looking down.

Though he later would hit a double to begin the eighth inning, putting him in position to score on Jason Bay's go-ahead hit, Ortiz is still batting just .224 with 14 RBIs. He said he might have a mechanical problem, a bad habit that he developed since his wrist injury last season. He said he's holding his hands differently to get to the inside fastball, and "leaking."

Ortiz, who went 0 for 3 in last night's 4-3 victory over the Angels, has gone 133 at-bats (dating to Sept. 22) without a homer, the second-longest stretch of his career. The longest, 145 at-bats, came from Sept. 9, 1998 to June 9, 2000, with the Twins.

Ortiz said he spent an hour on the phone with Delgado Monday. Howard had this to pass along, according to Ortiz: "Hey, forget about it. That's already in the past. You're a great human being, guy. You're a great player . . . It seems like it's fun for people to see you fail, but people have never put themselves in that situation, that's why [you] never have to pay attention to any of that. Go out and do your thing and have fun. Love yourself."

Delgado endured a similar drought last season, and critics said his career was finished. His April was terrible, with a .198 average, just three home runs, and 12 RBIs but he finished with 38 homers and 115 RBIs.

Those players, Ortiz said, "make you feel good, like a million bucks."

"People don't know," Ortiz said. "Sometimes they think we just come here to play baseball and that's it. We're human beings like everyone else. We have things to worry about. Sometimes that gets in the way. It's hard to have that free open mind you need to play this game. There's no way you can play this game with a busy mind. No way.

"Physically I am better than ever. I have no troubles physically. But sometimes this game gets in your head and you kind of get depressed for a minute. It can be for the situation you're dealing with that won't let you focus and people have no idea about that."

Though he said he can't dwell on the lack of home runs, he isn't following his own advice. When asked how often he thinks about the drought, Ortiz said, "Every day. Every day. Sleeping, eating, having breakfast . . . It's bad."

In the eighth inning last night, Ortiz was hit by a pitch by Darren Oliver with the bases loaded to drive in the Sox' second run of the game for the Sox. The pitch hit Ortiz's left wrist, the exact same spot as his injury from last season. He usually wears a band in that location, just below the wrist, but moved it down his arm for last night's game. He thought about that in the moment after the pitch struck him.

"You think about it," Ortiz said about last season's injury. "I was feeling a little bit of tingling, but after a little while it was fine."

Ortiz said he expected to play in tonight's game.

Not dodging issue
Ortiz has largely brushed off questions about former teammate Manny Ramírez since news broke last week that the Dodgers left fielder was suspended 50 games for use of a banned substance.

But yesterday, Ortiz said he was "shocked" and "confused."

"I don't know what to tell him," Ortiz said. "It shocked me . . . It's not that kind of guy that I know. He's a guy that worked hard every day, and it's going to be something crazy and hard to deal with.

"We'll see. Hopefully he knows what's up, learn from his mistakes, and do the right thing."

Asked if this changes any of Ramírez's accomplishments, Ortiz said, "Going to leave that up to you guys. Hopefully not.

"This news has shocked me, because I remember when Manny was here, the trainer would give him Tylenol because he was sore or something and he would throw it in the garbage. He wouldn't take it. This news here, he needs to speak out and let people know what's up, so people understand."

Ramírez has remained absent from the Dodgers, though manager Joe Torre expressed the desire that Ramírez address his teammates so they can show him support.

Ortiz said he hasn't spoken to Ramírez since last year.

"It's hard, man," he said. "You can't even reach out to Manny when Manny was here. You think I'm kidding, but I'm serious. Who knows? Manny's on his own always.

"There have been times when we were here playing together. I've been like, OK, let's meet at the lobby by noon so we can go and have lunch and go to the field. OK. Next thing you know you would be calling to his phone and calling to his room and you wouldn't reach him. And you just talked to him like an hour ago. That was him."

Backup plan
After second baseman Dustin Pedroia left Sunday night's game with a groin injury, forcing Nick Green to move over from shortstop and Julio Lugo to come off the bench, manager Terry Francona turned to bench coach Brad Mills and asked him, "Are you thinking who's going to be our [backup] infielder here?"

"I've been thinking for two innings," Mills replied. "I have no idea."

Francona strolled down the bench and asked catcher George Kottaras, who had played first base in the minors, and "he did not have a good look," Francona said.

Rocco Baldelli said he could play, and "that was all I needed to hear," Francona said. The last time Baldelli played shortstop was "probably a scrimmage game in high school, maybe," he said. But he played first base in high school, and he often took ground balls at third when he played for Tampa Bay.

The first thing Baldelli thought was, "I gotta find a cup." Baldelli ran into the clubhouse and found one, and borrowed Kevin Youkilis's infielder's glove. He asked third base coach DeMarlo Hale how to turn a double play.

"I wasn't really scared to go out there," Baldelli said. "But, I mean, how good could it have ended up?"

Adam Kilgore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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