Life Without Ortiz

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Life Without Ortiz

On Tuesday night, Jon Lester was awful and the Red Sox offense was lacking in a 7-5 loss to Chicago. To make matters worse, the other Sox were led by a vengeful Kevin Youkilis, who seems to have lost 20 pounds of fat and added 10 pounds of muscle in the two weeks since leaving Boston.

On Wednesday night, the game was delayed due to a tornado warning.

Yeah, Im not sure the David OrtzDL Era could have started much worse for the Sox. You could already see Ortiz watching it all unfold from the dugout, rubbing his hands together and thinking: Oh yesss. Whats up, Larry? How you enjoying life without Papi? Bahahaha!

With the way this seasons gone, you really had to wonder if the Sox would survive these two weeks without Ortiz. While hes been a huge pain in the ass off the field, hes still been Bostons undisputed best player. Hes the biggest reason theyre only one game out of a playoff spot. For three and a half months, Ortiz was the glue in that line-up and things were still on the verge of falling apart. But now . . . Who would step up in his absence? Who would be there on the nights when no one else showed?

There may still be times over the next two weeks when we find ourselves asking those questions, but last night wasnt one of them. Last night, after an inauspicious start to Life Without Papi, the Sox gave us reason to believe. Not just that they can survive sans No. 34, but that once he comes back, Ortiz and the Sox will have what it takes to turn this season around.

Of course, who knows? Weve been here before with this team. Weve gotten our hopes up, only see them crumpled up and crapped on. To quote a wise, wise man, the Sox play on the field has at times tested the mettle of the faithful. It could be maddening one day, enthralling the next. As a result, weve learned not to get carried away.

But at the very least, we can all agree that last night was a lot of fun.

First of all, the Sox are a different team with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford atop the line-up. In three games, theyve taken Boston from borderline unwatchable to one of the most exciting teams in baseball. As long theyre healthy, Crawford and Ellsbury will continue to change the game. Theyll make opposing pitchers dizzy and make life a whole lot easier for everyone whos hitting behind them.

Doesnt Crawford already look more confident and comfortable than he did at any point last season? Kill the guy all you want for the money and the injuries, but right now he's ready to play.

Same goes for Adrian Gonzalez, whos 9-16 (.563) with two homers and nine RBI in four games since the All-Star Break. His average is up to .296, hes in the top 10 in the AL in hits, the top five in doubles and the power looks like its creeping back. Speaking of power, Cody Ross is healthy again, judging by his two home runs that traveled a combined marathon. And did I mention that Dustin Pedroia is coming back tonight? Believe it or not, he found that sometimes it's beneficial to take a seat and let yourself heal. He's ready to roll.

And suddenly, we're left to wonder: Instead of the Sox falling apart without Ortiz, might we remember this stretch as the time when this team finally came together?

When Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia all returned, and with a hell of a lot to prove. When Gonzalez and Ross had no choice but to pick up the slack and carry the RBI burden. And that when David Ortiz comes back in two weeks, he'll no longer have to play the role of savior for a beat up and worn down line-up. Instead, he'll come back as the final piece to what was originally supposed to be one of the most imposing line-ups in baseball.

And there I go getting carried away.

I know, Larry. I'm sorry. I should learn from your sage words. As enthralled as I am right now, I must be prepared for my mettle to be tested. It will be so unbelievably maddening!

But for now, despite all the Red Sox will lose with David Ortiz on the DL, last night gave us a reason to be optimistic about all they'll gain in the meantime.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Three-run HR from Sandoval (.353) leads Red Sox split squad past Rays, 7-5

Three-run HR from Sandoval (.353) leads Red Sox split squad past Rays, 7-5

Pablo Sandoval hit his fourth home run of the spring and Rusney Castillo had three hits to lead a Red Sox split squad to a 7-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday in Port Charlotte, Fla. 

Sandoval, who has won back his third base job after missing nearly all of last season following surgery on his left shoulder, connected for a three-run shot, batting right-handed, against Rays starter Ian Snell in the fifth inning. The switch-hitting Sandoval had abandoned hitting right-handed in 2015, his last full season with the Red Sox.

He's hitting .353 this spring with a 1.051 OPS and 19 RBI.

Castillo, the Cuban outfielder signed to a seven-year, $72 million deal late in 2014 but again likely headed for Triple-A Pawtucket, went 3-for-4 and is hitting .368 this spring. Catcher Blake Swihart, also probably Pawtucket-bound, had two hits and is hitting .325.


 

Another strong start for Kendrick in Red Sox split squad's 3-3 tie with Phillies

Another strong start for Kendrick in Red Sox split squad's 3-3 tie with Phillies

Kyle Kendrick strengthened his bid for a spot in the rotation by allowing two runs in six innings and striking out six and Jackie Bradley homered as a Red Sox split squad played to a 3-3 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Kendrick, 32, a non-roster invitee to spring training, allowed eight hits and a walk in his sixth start this spring. He's been the Red Sox best starter with an ERA of 2.17. 

With David Price out until May and lefty Drew Pomeranz still a question mark, Kendrick could find his way into the rotation behind Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Bradley went 2-for-3 with his third homer of the spring. He's hitting .244 in spring training games. 

The Phillies pushed across the tying run in the ninth off lefty reliever Robby Scott, the first run he's allowed this spring in 10 innings. 

The Minnesota Twins host the Red Sox on Sunday at 1:05 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.