McAdam: Ortiz feels right against lefties again

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McAdam: Ortiz feels right against lefties again

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Of the 361 homers David Ortiz has hit in his career, there was nothing particularly memorable about his most recent one, hit in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 10-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Unlike so many of the others, this one did not put the Red Sox ahead or even tie the score. It merely made the final score just slightly more respectable.

But that's not to suggest that there wasn't something symbolic about the homer.

The Red Sox had two runners on and two out, attempting to claw back against the White Sox. Manager Ozzie Guillen summoned lefthander Will Ohman from the visitors' bullpen.

Ortiz swatted a pitch from Ohman high in the air to left and watched it come to rest atop the Monster Seats. The homer not only foiled Guillen's strategy, but marked Ortiz's third homer in 55 at-bats against lefties this season.

The three homers off lefties represent one more than Ortiz hit all of last season against lefthanded pitchers. He's done more damage against lefties in 55 at-bats this season than he did in 185 at-bats through the entire 2010 season.

"I guess everybody was questioning me hitting against lefties,'' said Ortiz. "I've said before, most of the time when you struggle against lefties, you're getting yourself out. You're chasing (pitches) out of the strike zone. That's pretty much what they try to make you do -- chase out of the strike zone. When you force them to stay in the strike zone, you've got to take advantage of it.''

Whatever approach Ortiz tried last year, it didn't work. He hit just .222 against lefties and his slugging percentage against righties (.643) was nearly double what it was against lefties (.324).

He lost early-season at-bats to Mike Lowell against lefties and even when he rebounded somewhat in the second half, the threat of sitting against lefties remained.

Before the Red Sox agreed to pick up his 12.5 million option for 2011, Terry Francona warned Ortiz that he would need to earn his at-bats against lefthanders this year.

"He did not want to be a part-time DH,'' said hitting coach Dave Magadan. "He knew that to be as productive as he wanted to be, he was going to have hit lefties. It was a conscious effort on his part.''

In addition to laying off pitches out of the strike zone, Magadan sees Ortiz intent on using the whole field. Case in point: last night's homer, which traveled to the opposite field.

"The last two or three years,'' said Magadan, "he was just using from second over to the right field line (against lefties). We talked a lot about in 2007, when he was doing a lot of damage against everybody, when lefties came in to face him, he wore out that Monster.''

It's helped that Ortiz has talked hitting frequently with Adrian Gonzalez, who has always hit lefties over the course of his career.

"I've watched him,'' said Ortiz of his teammate. "This guy, he tries to stay through the ball against everybody. In this game, you never finish learning. I've been asking questions my whole career. Having somebody like him here, why not take advantage of it?''

So Ortiz has. His success against righties and lefties has made him an everyday staple in the lineup. The looming threat of a platoon at DH is over.

"I've hit lefties before pretty good - I know I could again,'' said Ortiz.

Asked if took any special satisfaction from proving his point, Ortiz answered without hesitation.

"Definitely,'' he said. "That's what's going to keep you in the game, and keep you being an everyday player as long as you play.

"I don't feel like being a backup yet.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Shoulder injuries don’t have to be damning for hitters. Look at the 469-foot home run Hanley Ramirez decimated Saturday in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs.

Yes, he’s gotten off to a slow start. Through 19 games played, he has two long balls.

But he had just one homer through the same number of games in 2016. He’s hitting .250 now. A year ago at this point, he was hitting .266.

“Last year, Hanley started slow,” hitting coach Chili Davis said prior to the Cubs series. “I watched him, work, and work, and work, and work, and you know, he didn’t abandon what he was working on. He didn’t abandon it, he stuck with it and he perfect ed it. And when he perfected it, he went off. He’s still working.

“Timing, consistency with timing, and it could be partially the shoulder bothering him.”

At least eight times in his career, Ramirez has been considered day-to-day or gone to the disabled list because of a shoulder injury. He partially dislocated his left shoulder, his lead shoulder, in 2007.

Hey, did you notice it was 83 degrees at first pitch Saturday?

“When it’s cold, and you’ve got bad joints, it affects you,” Davis said during the week. “When it warms up, it loosens up more.”

Davis knows better than most how to handle shoulder pain, how to be a successful power hitter despite it. The former switch-hitting slugger has a metal screw in his left shoulder after a 1986 surgery.

“For 13 years I played with it,” Davis said. “It was multiple dislocations. I slipped down some stairs in Riverfront Stadium. Grabbed a rail, and dislocated it. It dislocated like five times after this. It was so loose.”

Davis, now 57 years old and last a big leaguer in 1999, still has the screw in that shoulder. Today they make dissolvable ones, but didn't back then.

Believe it or not, Davis believes the surgery helped his righthanded swing. He was a switch-hitter, and batting righty, he liked to hook the ball.

“I’d get out and around,” Davis said. “And then I realized I had to use my top hand more. … It created power the other way for me. It was ridiculous how that happened. I mean, it was ridiculous. 

“Because if you really think about it, [the right] is my strong hand. I do everything with this hand, I eat, I’m a right-handed guy. … Everything right-handed was all over the field.”

Davis said hitters are always aware of their health situations. He remembers coming back from ankle surgery and the bad habits he created. The day he finally let himself act normally, he heard a pop. But it wasn’t trouble: it was merely scar tissue breaking up.

The shoulders are, of course, important. But Davis explained that a swing where the shoulders do most of the work is probably not ideal.

“People talk to connection with the backside, feel that connection. Well, that connection creates synchronicity,” Davis said. “Yeah, it creates some power, but you can try to feel connection and lose your hands, your hands get lost in the process. So they got to work perfect together. 

“But the bigger muscles, to me, were the stop muscles for me. If I was going to swing and I went to stop, that’s when I felt these things holding me back, or the connection holding me back. So just from experience alone, yeah, if the shoulders are involved in your swing, then you’ve got a long swing and your hands aren’t going to work the right way.”

There was a moonshot Saturday that suggested Ramirez’s hands are working properly, and that his shoulder pain won't mean a drop-off from last year necessarily.

“I think at times he may [be compensating],” Davis said. “He’s working on things. If he wasn't working, if he came in the cage during BP and I didn’t think that he was working on something, then I’d have a problem with that. But he’s working, and last year he worked and worked and worked until it clicked. So, I’m hoping the same thing happens this year.”

Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

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Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

BOSTON - Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero and Ben Zobrist had solo shots, helping the Chicago Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers.

Steven Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.