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Yaz: I've been where Papi has been

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  May 21, 2009 04:58 PM

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Look at it this way: During the 1971-72 seasons, Carl Yastrzemski went without a homer for nearly twice as many games as David Ortiz just did.

"I know what Ortiz is going through" Yastrzemski said today by phone, one day after Ortiz ended his homerless drought at 38 games. "I went almost a year without hitting a home run."

And he lived to tell about it.

For the record, Yastrzemski’s streak lasted precisely 71 games, from September 1971 to July 1972, a period during which he played with a wrist injury. Yastrzemski was 32 at the time. He finished the '72 season with 12 home runs, the second-lowest total he posted during the first 20 years of his career.

If you’re looking for Yaz to give Ortiz advice on how top reclaim his power, here’s a tip: don’t. Generally speaking, players only give their opinions on other players when asked directly. If you’ve ever played golf with someone who starts analyzing your swing in the middle of a round, you probably know why.

Nonetheless, Yastrzemski acknowledged that, as a power hitter, he had to make adjustments as he got older. Beginning at roughly age 33 -- the same age Ortiz is now -- Yastrzemski said he had to modify his swing so that he consistently got "on top" of the baseball, which is to say he went from a slight uppercut to a flatter, more level swing. The idea was to make good contact more consistently because he simply did not have the swing mechanics to make consistently good contact on off-speed pitches.

"I could always hit the fastball, but I had to adjust to the breaking ball," Yastrzemski said. "I was very conscious, after I turned 33 or so, to get on top of the ball. Mentally, I had to completely push hitting homers out of my mind and focus on the line drive. When I was younger, I was more of a free swinger."

Though Yastrzemski never approached the levels of his prime years -- he hit 147 homers in four seasons from 1967-70 -- he was nonetheless productive in his later years. After the drought, he hit 162 home runs over his next 8 1/2 seasons.

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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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