Bond between Ortiz, Cano bigger than baseball

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Bond between Ortiz, Cano bigger than baseball

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
BOSTON -- Before the Home Run Derby, before the World Series championships and All-Star Game selections, David Ortiz and Robinson Cano met for the first time at a baseball stadium in the Dominican Republic.

Ortiz was in his 20s looking for playing time on the Minnesota Twins. Cano was a teenager aspiring to follow in his footsteps and make it to the Major League.

A bond began that day over ten years ago. And as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees square off this weekend at Fenway Park, their friendship is still strong while they battle for control of the AL East standings.

Ortiz wasnt always the superstar he is today in Boston, but that didnt matter back home in the Dominican Republic. There, countless children looked up to him and saw him as an example of what can happen with hard work. Cano was one of them.

He was so cool and nice, Cano told CSNNE.com of their first meeting. He is the same guy that he was 10, 11 years ago. I told him I was a big fan and I loved the way he played. He wasnt as big as he is now because with Minnesota he didnt play every day because he had Doug Mientkiewicz back in the day. Now look who he is. Back then he was David Ortiz. Now hes Big Papi.

Ortiz noticed something special in Cano, too. There are plenty of athletes who have talent but lack the dedication to take it to the next level. Cano was different. Ortiz immediately recognized a sense of maturity and awareness of the hard work that lay ahead.

Hes always been one of my favorites, Ortiz told CSNNE.com. Im so happy to watch his success and its because hes a great kid. I always try to encourage him to do the right thing and make sure that he works hard every day so it will pay off because thats the only way you can see the results of good things when you put in some pretty hard work. I always try to make sure because hes a great kid.

Cano was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 2001. Four years later, he made his Major League debut. By that point, Ortiz had already won a World Series with the Red Sox and had earned a regular playing role. The two were reunited on opposing sides of baseball's biggest rivalry, yet that never got in the way of their relationship.

Often times when the Yankees come to Boston, Ortiz will invite Cano to his home for dinner. When the Red Sox are in New York, they will go out to eat together. Then there are the phone calls and text messages exchanged throughout the season.

He became like a big brother, said Cano. He always gives me advice to remember where you are. You arent there because they gave it to you. You earned it. You worked hard - dont forgot how hard you worked to get here. Those are the kinds of things where its always good to have someone remind you of the little things that keep you in the game for a long time.

Today Ortiz and Cano are two of baseballs hottest hitters. Now 28 and in his seventh Major League season, Cano entered Friday's game hitting .301 with 18 homeruns and 75 RBI. Ortiz, 35, has a .289 batting average with 20 homeruns and 70 RBI.

This season Ortiz called on Cano to participate on the American League team in the Home Run Derby. Cano was honored to be asked to compete and returned the favor by taking home the trophy. Both players were happy with the outcome, even if it meant Cano ousted Ortiz, the defending champ.

In the moment you dont feel anything, but after that you look back and you see youve got Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Rickie Weeks, Jose Bautista, said Cano. So you look back and you say, Wow, Im the one that had less homeruns in the season and I won the Derby. But the best thing was it was fun, you get to spend time with them in the same clubhouse, on the field, you get to joke a lot, which is good.

Ortiz didnt have to ask Cano to be on his team for Cano to appreciate the significance of their friendship. His kindness over the years has inspired Cano to reach out to younger Dominican players in baseball as well. Cano knows that he has a mentor, a confidant, and a loyal friend in -- ironically -- his American League rival.

It means somebody that not only talks to you because of who you are, but somebody who cares about you, gives you advice, things that help you in your career on and off the field, Cano said. Thats the best thing.

Ortiz is happy to fill those roles.

I look at him like a little brother, said Ortiz. Its great. I really try to get along with everybody around me and since the first time I saw him, I saw how hard he was trying to be a good player and came to be who he is today. I always have open hands for people like that.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

Drellich: Hanley Ramirez has to improve or Red Sox need to try others

BOSTON — It doesn’t really matter what’s holding Hanley Ramirez back: his health, his desire to play through injuries, neither, both. The Red Sox need him to hit better as the designated hitter, or give someone else a chance in his place.

Tuesday is June 27. From May 27 on, Ramirez is hitting .202 with a .216 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage.

Putting Ramirez on the disabled list so that he can heal up, or at least attempt to, would be reasonable. If you can’t hit well — if you can’t even be in the lineup, as has been the case the last two days — you're hampering the roster.

Ramirez was out of the lineup for a second straight game on Tuesday because of his left knee, which was hit by a pitch Sunday. He’s been bothered by his shoulders all season.

“He’s improved today. He’s responding to treatment,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday of Ramirez’s knee. “He’s still going through some work right now. Would get a bat in his hand here shortly to determine if he’s available to pinch hit tonight. Prior to yesterday’s game, day to day, and still in that status, but he is improving.”

The route to better production doesn’t matter. As long as the Sox get some, be it from Ramirez or somewhere else. Flat-out benching Ramirez in favor of Chris Young or Sam Travis or both for a time should be on the table.

When it comes to lineups vs. lefties, Farrell might be thinking the same way. 

Farrell was asked Tuesday if he’d consider playing someone at DH other than Ramirez for performance reasons.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Farrell said. “Where he was so good against left-handed pitching last year, that’s been still a work in progress, for lack of a better way to describe it. So we’re always looking to put the best combination on the field.”

A right-handed hitter, Ramirez is just 5-for-35 (.143) vs. lefties this season, after hitting .346 against them a year ago.

On the flip side: in the final three months of the 2016 season, Ramirez hit .300 with a .379 OBP and .608 slugging percentage overall. That’s from the start of July through the end of the regular season vs. all pitchers.

“You know, the one thing you can’t completely turn away from is what Hanley did last year,” Farrell said. “While I know that’s last year, we’re still working to get some increased performance from him. I think he’s still a key member in our lineup. The presence he provides, the impact that he’s capable of. And yet, we’re still working to get there.”

Farrell said the team hasn’t been able to pinpoint a particular reason for Ramirez’s struggles vs. southpaws.

“No,” Farrell said. “There’s been extensive video review. There’s been extensive conversations with him. There’s been stretches, short stretches, where he’s I think shown the approach at the plate and the all field ability to drive the baseball. That’s been hit and miss a little bit. So, we’re just trying to gain a consistency that he’s been known for.”

Mitch Moreland's been playing with a fractured big toe in his left foot. After he homered and had another impactful night Monday, Farrell made some comments that are hard to read as anything but a message to Ramirez.

“In [Moreland's] most recent stretch, he’s been able to get on top of some fastballs that have been at the top of the strike zone or above for some power obviously,” Farrell said. “But I think the way he’s gone about it given the physical condition he’s in, is a strong message to the remainder of this team.”

Asked about that comment a day later, Farrell shot down the idea he was trying to reach Ramirez or anyone else with that remark about playing hurt.

“No,” Farrell said Tuesday. “I respect the question, but that was to highlight a guy who has been dealing with a broken toe, continues to perform at a high level and to compliment Mitch for the way he’s gone about it.”

It doesn't matter why Ramirez isn't producing, at a certain point. Either he is or he isn't. If not, they need to be willing to give someone else an extended look, whether it lands Ramirez on the DL or simply the bench.

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

Farrell suspended one game for last week's run-in with umpire

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell has been suspended one game because of Saturday night's scream-fest with umpire Bill Miller, when Farrell objected to a balk call made on Fernando Abad that led to an Angels run in the seventh inning.

Farrell is to serve the suspension on Tuesday night. He has also been fined.

Farrell and the umpire couldn't have been much closer to each other's face, and some contact was made.

"There was contact made, yes. I didn't bump him though," Farrell said a day later. "The tip of my finger touched his shirt."

Miller has ejected Farrell three times, more than any other umpire.

"No, honestly I didn't even know that, someone's brought to my attention that it's been the third time," Farrell said Sunday when asked if that history played in. "I don't have a tote board of who's done what and how many times