Ortiz hits K.C. as the Red Sox' lone All-Star representative


Ortiz hits K.C. as the Red Sox' lone All-Star representative

KANSAS CITY -- In the past, when David Ortiz made his annual pilgrimage to the All-Star Game, he came with plenty of company.

Jon Lester. Josh Beckett. Dustin Pedroia. Jonathan Papelbon. They -- and plenty of others (J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, Tim Wakefield, et al) -- made sure the Red Sox were always well represented at baseball's midsummer classic.

Not this year.

As reflects a team that is at .500 at the break, Ortiz is the lone Red Sox representative at Tuesday's All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium. That marks the first time in more than a decade -- Manny Ramirez was the only member of the Sox at the 2001 game -- that the Sox have had just one representative.

"It's a little crazy,'' agreed Ortiz. "I've always been able to see some of my teammates. It's strange. But at the same time, we have a lot of guys on the DL. That's the major reason, I guess.''

It's those same injuries -- to Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Bailey and, more recently, Pedroia -- which have impacted the Sox so heavily.

There's no arguing with Ortiz's credentials. He's hitting .312 with 22 homers and 57 RBI, all tops on the team. His .607 slugging percentage and 1.013 OPS are each among the league leaders.

"I think it was good,'' said Ortiz assessing his own first half. "There's a lot of challenges in the American League. If you don't have someone hot hitting behind you, they don't mind pitching around you and taking care of the rest of the lineup. I think the first half was good. Like I always do, I tried my best. Hopefully, the rest of the guys on the DL are ready for the second half and we'll have a better chance.''

Playing without tablesetters such as Crawford and Ellsbury, and with Adrian Gonzalez not producing as many runs behind him, Ortiz has had to carry the team offensively.

"It puts a lot of pressure on me,'' said Ortiz. "You look at the games and see how they pitch to me. You just have to be patient. I have learned over the years how to be patient. When you're young, you have so much energy and you want to do things. Next thing you know, you're in trouble.

"I've been doing the opposite. It's hard, though. You have to work at it. But it is what it is.''

Ortiz can only hope that the players sidelined for much of the first half will provide a boost when the second half of the season gets underway Friday. Both Ellsbury and Crawford are expected back within a week or so.

"We're going to have a lot of guys coming back,'' he said. "A lot of the regular guys are coming back. We're going to be in better shape going into the second half. We have a lot of guys on the DL and it's hard to compete like that.

"We haven't been able to work as a group, there have been so many injuries. At one point, we had the whole regular outfield on the DL. Everybody's been on the DL. I've never seen anything like that before.''

With a 3-7 road trip in Seattle and Oakland followed by a 1-3 series against the Yankees, the Sox didn't exactly give themselves any momentum going into the break, losing 8 of their last 11.

That skid dropped them 9 12 games in back of New York, and 2 12 games out of the second wild-card spot.

But Ortiz believes the Sox can still come out ready to make their move Friday.

"The break,'' he said, "sometimes, it gives the players a chance to breathe, think a little bit about the second half and what they have to do better, what they need to improve on.

"Our team is really good at that. You saw last year how we bounced back after the slow start. After the break, a lot of players regroup. You know that's the last ride, the last part of the season. Hopefully, that's the case with us and we start playing better.''

It would help, too, if underperforming veterans such as Gonzalez, Lester and Beckett began to play to their usual level in the second half, something Ortiz believes is likely.

"The most important thing is that they know how to do it,'' he said. "Hopefully they come back strong."