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Big moves turned into no big deal

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By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 30, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA — Guess we’re all a bunch of worry warts.

Why would people think two professional athletes such as David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez would injure themselves just because they were playing unfamiliar positions? Why would Terry Francona obsess for days, have six conversations with Gonzalez and have a major powwow with Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, and his coaching staff about whether to pull the trigger on moving Gonzalez to right and having Ortiz play first?

As it turned out, everything was swell, except for the fact that Gonzalez went 1 for 4 with a double play and Ortiz went 0 for 4 in a 2-1 loss last night to the Phillies.

The offensive boost they expected from having both sluggers in the lineup never materialized. It was also thought John Lackey would need as much run support as possible. The big righthander didn’t need much because he pitched well and helped himself with an RBI double.

“I felt a little bit off,’’ Ortiz acknowledged after the game. “In the first at-bat [a called third strike] I couldn’t pull the trigger. I was in between. And after that, I started to get a little bit more comfortable. But I was off.’’

But the defensive part was fine.

“To tell you the truth, I was just thinking about defending myself out there,’’ he said. “When you have tons of lefties coming to hit, you don’t want that rocket hit right at you. I came out alive. That’s a good thing.’’

Ortiz then kidded: “I had a little chat with [Phillies slugger Ryan Howard] before the game. I told him I had a family waiting for me at home.’’

Ortiz blamed the Red Sox’ struggles on recent offdays breaking their rhythm. He was disappointed last night’s much-discussed switch didn’t result in a victory. He is not scheduled to be in the lineup today and doesn’t know if he’ll play in Houston.

“It was a tough call,’’ Epstein said of last night’s lineup moves. “There’s strong arguments on both sides, but in the end it’s something we’re on same page worth trying. Adrian, given the adequate assurances that he won’t exert himself too much out there running, throwing, or crashing against the wall, it’s tough the way the schedule broke. David is a big part of the team. We’ll see how it goes.’’

Anything to do with the recent dip the team has been on?

“I don’t think so. We were talking about it weeks ago when we were on huge roll,’’ Epstein said. “We decided before [Tuesday night’s] game. It’s not reactionary. We can’t let recent performance factor into the decision. It’s more about getting David in there, keeping him going, keeping him from getting rusty, rather than doing everything possible to win one game. We downgrade defensively at two spots to upgrade offensively at one.

“It might help you, it might hurt you. It gives us a good lineup.’’

One has to wonder, if the Red Sox took two of three in Pittsburgh and won the series opener here if these changes would have ever taken place.

Ortiz was asked if there was any pressure after a long time away from playing first base.

“No,’’ he said before last night’s loss. “If I [mess] up, I [mess] up. Simple as that.

“I think that I’m just being realistic,’’ he added. “I know I don’t play there every day. I know this is going to be for a few games. So I just try to keep loose. Try not to think about it. Try to have good communication with Pedey [Dustin Pedroia]. I say anything [in the air] is yours. Anything on the ground is yours, too.’’

Ortiz had nothing but routine plays and the Phillies didn’t attempt any bunts.

He was frank about whether he would have fun playing first.

“No,’’ he said. “Because if you play for two days your body acts different. If you play first base for 10 games you get used to it.’’

Was he sore?

“We’ll see about that tomorrow,’’ Ortiz said. “I’m not right now but I’m taking some aspirin with me just in case.’’

Before the game, Ortiz laughed about Francona’s comments that his glove looked as if he’d just taken it out of the box and that he cut himself on it because it was so stiff.

Gonzalez, who volunteered to sit out Sunday in Pittsburgh so Ortiz could play, seemed bemused by the attention.

“What’s the big deal? It’s baseball,’’ he said. “I’ve been there in the past. Again, it’s not something I’m going to try and make an outstanding play. I’m going to catch the balls that are hit to me, keep the base hits in front, and make sure I hit my cutoff man.’’

Not much action for Gonzalez last night. He fielded two base hits cleanly. A gapper by Raul Ibanez was flagged down by Jacoby Ellsbury. In the eighth, Chase Utley hit a drive to right that hit off the wall above Gonzalez’s leap.

“I moved around more than Adrian did,’’ said Ortiz.

It looked as if Gonzalez played cautiously, and that’s what he promised the brass he would do.

“I don’t think many people crash into walls or dive after balls unless the opportunity calls for it,’’ he said. “I’m just going to play the game. There’s a lot of people who switch positions all the time and nobody makes a big deal about it. It’s just for a couple of days so Papi can get in the game. He’s a big part of the lineup. That’s why we need him in there.

“I’m pretty cautious at first base,’’ he added. “If the play needs for me to dive, I’ll dive. I think about the game. I don’t just react and do things recklessly. I’ll be the same way in right field.’’

Asked whether this move should have been made sooner, Gonzalez said, “I think we could have done it in Pittsburgh. But there was always a fear from Tito and management about the possibility of getting hurt. But I keep telling them, ‘If you have fear about getting hurt, then I might as well not play.’ Because anybody can get hurt out there. I think anybody who approaches the game with the mentality of getting hurt, you’re at a loss.’’

Now, if they could only hit.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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