Notes: Ortiz turning things around against lefties

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Notes: Ortiz turning things around against lefties

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BALTIMORE -- David Ortiz is off to a far better start this season than either of his last two seasons. But somewhat lost in that better start is Ortiz's resurgence against left-handed pitching.

Granted, it's a relatively small sample size, but through the first 22 games, Ortiz was hitting a sizzling .360 -- 9-for-25 -- against lefties.

That's quite an upgrade for someone who hit a measly .222 against them last season. But Ortiz isn't terribly surprised by his start, noting that, over the course of his career, he's actually hit lefties relatively well (.259 lifetime).

"I'm just trying to be more patient,'' said Ortiz before taking batting practice Wednesday afternoon. "I watch my video and I saw that it wasn't like they were getting me out; I got myself out much of the time, chasing bad pitches.

"When they bring a lefty in or you're facing a lefty, it's all about not chasing bad pitches. I'm just trying to be more patient because I know I've been hitting lefties my whole life. But it gets to the point where you don't pay attention to it and the next thing you know, it's haunting you.''

Ortiz fell into a hole early against lefties last year, and, desperate to show that he belonged in the lineup against them, started trying to do too much. The harder he tried, the more he chased pitches out of the strike zone, playing into opponents hands.

"I wanted to show everyone,'' recalled Ortiz, "but they weren't even giving me stuff to hit. When pitchers see that you're not chasing those sliders in the dirt or the two-seamer in the dirt, they figure 'That's not working anymore; I've got to either throw strikes or walk him.'

"This year, I've been taking my walks. (Seven in 32 plate appearances against lefties, compared to eight in 53 plate appearances against righties.) I tried to wait for a pitch I can hit and not try to pull everything. I had been walking away from my game the last few years because I was trying to do too much against them.''

Before he returned to the Red Sox on a one-year option last fall, manager Terry Francona warned Ortiz that he might sit against some lefties if he didn't perform better. Ortiz accepted that, but wanted a concession from Francona -- if he hit better against them, he could stay in the lineup more often.

To date, Francona has been true to his word. With Ortiz off to a better start, Ortiz has been out of the starting lineup just twice in the first 22 games. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have faced nearly as many lefty starters (10) as righties (12).

"At one point (in the offseason),'' said Ortiz, "I said to myself: 'You've hit lefties before; what is it you're not doing that you used to?' I figured out that I was chasing their pitches and getting away from my game. I went out there trying to show the whole world that I can hit lefties, but they weren't giving me anything to hit.'

Josh Beckett seemed to have plenty on his mind when he stared down Luke Scott in the fourth inning. But hours later, he bristled when asked by reporters about the incident.

Scott flipped his bat after crushing a pitch from Beckett some 423 feet, over everything in right field. As he rounded the bases, Beckett followed him with his eyes and seemed to be yelling at the Baltimore outfielder.

"Not my deal,'' shrugged Beckett initially when asked about Scott's reaction.

Asked if he was upset with Scott's reaction, Beckett said: "Those things have a way of working themselves out.''

An angry Beckett could be seen demanding a new ball from the umpire after Scott's homer. He then had an animated conversation with home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth as he left the mound following the third out.

Asked what he said to Culbreth, Beckett snapped: "Is this TMZ? I thought we were talking about a baseball game. We want to know about bat flips and talking to umpires. Why don't we just stick to the game?''

Terry Francona, asked about the Beckett-Scott flareup, said he didn't notice much.

"I don't watch that,'' said Francona. "Our guys flip their bats some times, too.''

On another night, Kevin Youkilis might have been the hero. But Wednesday night, he was more like a footnote.

Youkilis homered to left with two on in the eighth off Koji Uehara, helping the Sox erase what had been a 4-0 Orioles lead.

"I was just looking for a fastball to drive,'' recounted Youkilis, "I got one at 2-and-0 and just missed it. Then I was fortunate enough to get one up in the zone that I could hit out there to left-center field. But in the end it didn't matter because we lost the game.''

The homer was Youkilis's fifth homer of the season, but only the second three-run homer the Sox have hit in 23 games.

"We just haven't clicked on all cylinders yet,'' said Youkilis. "This team has a lot of great hitters that aren't where they should be. That's the greatest thing we have going for us right now. We have hitters that are .300, .290 hitters that aren't hitting there. That means a lot of balls are going to fall in that haven't fallen in.''

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

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz is helping out Dave Dombrowski’s balance sheet in Boston.

The Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades have been awesome — beyond awesome, even. The Tyler Thornburg deal looks like a disaster that, maybe someday, Dombrowski will acknowledge rather than sidestep. The Carson Smith deal has produced, if nothing else, no gain. The Fernando Abad deal has not hurt the Sox, and he’s had some decent moments.

But the Pomeranz trade with the Padres, for just top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, stood as the most controversial of Dealer Dave’s moves until the past couple months. Now, the Cult of Travis Shaw has slowly made folks forget about Espinoza and the complicated set of circumstances that surrounded that trade.

“Rescind” is something you’re hearing less and less. 

It’s remarkable what a 2.70 ERA in a 40-inning, seven-start stretch can do. Pomeranz is looking like a lot shinier these days, particularly after Tuesday night, when he came back out despite a rain delay of more than an hour in a 9-2 win over the Twins.

From the day that 40-inning stretch began, May 25, through Tuesday, only four qualified starters posted a better ERA in the American League: Corey Kluber (1.29), Jason Vargas (2.27), Jordan Montgomery (2.52) and Mike Pelfrey (2.64).

For comparison: Chris Sale is 10th in that stretch, at 3.54. Rick Porcello has 6.08 ERA in the same time.

Realistically, where the Sox stood last season, they needed Pomeranz. He was healthy enough to throw. That’s the reality everyone who wanted the deal undone always undersold: the back of the rotation was crumbling. 

But that was just one layer of the deal.

The Padres did not provide as much medical information as they should have, and the Sox stuck with Pomeranz despite the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Espinoza hasn’t pitched for a Padres minor league affiliate yet this season. He’s playing catch from flat ground as he comes back from a forearm injury, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently. 

Trades, to this observer, are typically best evaluated by reviewing the process behind them — which is to say, by looking back at the information was available at the time the deal was made. And at the time, it was known that the Sox were paying for Pomeranz beyond just last season's second half. They were paying for a controllable arm who could help out the rotation this year too.

Dombrowski may well have acquired Pomeranz at his peak value, which is unsurprising. But what mattered most was whether the team believed Pomeranz could contribute effectively beyond 2016. That, once they had all the health information, whether they properly evaluated what it would mean for his future.

It looked bad when Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list. He had a stem-cell injection in his forearm in the winter, too. There wasn’t much to hang your hat on at the start of April. 

Realistically, Pomeranz probably isn’t 100 percent right now. Even within the relative world of pro baseball — where no one is ever 100 percent — Pomeranz is probably further from it than most. 

But he's powered through. Pomeranz’s attitude might actually fit Boston better than most realize. He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

How Pomeranz holds up is to be seen. But the team’s judgment that he would have value beyond last season, a value worth surrendering Espinoza for, is looking better and better.

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

Francona misses second game this month because of health issues

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona missed Tuesday night's game against Texas after his second trip to the hospital this month.

The Indians said doctors for now have ruled out major health issues and Francona will be monitored the next several weeks.

Francona, 58, left Monday night's game because he wasn't feeling well. He spent several hours at Cleveland Clinic and underwent a series of tests.

Francona was released from the hospital on Tuesday and spent the rest of the day at home. He was expected to return to the dugout Wednesday when the Indians host the Rangers. Cleveland lost to Texas 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bench coach Brad Mills ran the team in Francona's absence. Cleveland began the day in first place in the AL Central after rallying for a 15-9 win Monday.

"Tito actually wanted to come back to the ballpark today," team president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday. "I told him he can't come back to the ballpark today. He only got a couple hours of sleep last night, so despite his desire to want to be here, I thought it was best that he gets some rest tonight and just come back tomorrow. His plan when he was getting released from the hospital was to come over here."

"I don't think he was exceedingly happy with me," Antonetti said with a laugh. "That's OK."

Francona was hospitalized June 13 following a game at Progressive Field. He underwent tests and was released a few hours later, returning to work the following night. Last August, he missed a game after experiencing chest pains but was back the next day.

"Thankfully, we've got some great doctors that are coordinating his care," Antonetti said. "They've done every test they can possibly imagine. They've all come back clean. They're now working to try to figure out what are some of those things that are causing him to not feel so well."

Francona, a close friend of Mills for several years, has retained his sense of humor through his health issues.

A statement released by the team Tuesday read, "Mr. Francona also wanted to express that medical personnel have not yet ruled out an allergy to Bench Coach Brad Mills."