Ortiz: Red Sox need to re-embrace the '04 approach

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Ortiz: Red Sox need to re-embrace the '04 approach

BOSTON -- It only took David Ortiz a little while spent with his 2004 teammates Tuesday night to figure out what the Red Sox need to do for 2013.

It's not about players, Ortiz determined; it's about team. And it takes leadership, which Ortiz hinted the current Sox lack.

"Tuesday night something happened to me,'' said Ortiz. "Every time I looked at somebody, I kind of had some highlight, some flash from '04 that that person was responsible for. Tuesday night was the first time I noticed that every group was led by a guy. You know what I mean?

"Like the bullpen was led by Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke. Those guys wanted to make sure that all the young guys followed them, that the bullpen was ready for whatever they said. They had time to go out there, time to prepare themselves . . . they had their own group and they protected each other. On the road, you'd see the bullpen guys together.

"Same with the starting pitchers. We'd have Pedro Martinez, we had Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield handle whatever came up with starting pitchers.''

Ortiz recalled Martinez instructing Bronson Arroyo and other younger pitchers on the staff to change their between-start routine in midseason in order to preserve their strength.

"Pedro was looking out for his teammates,'' Ortiz said. "As a veteran, he was saying, 'As a young player, listen to what I have to say.' And next thing you know, boom, we're where we have to be.''

Asked where the veteran presence and leadership has gone in the present-day Red Sox clubhouse, Ortiz said: "It's not here right now. It's not here, to be honest with you.

"But I think we can get back there. It's not something you have to kill anyone to get there. It's just a matter of having veteran guys in charge.

"That's something that wasn't planned. It was Mike Timlin saying about the bullpen, 'Hey, I got this.' It was Curt, Wake, saying, 'Starting pitchers, I got this.' Hitting? Me and Manny Ramirez, we were in charge of the responsibility, the production and everybody around us fed off that.''

Setting the tone, Ortiz added, starts in the manager's office and no one understood that better than Terry Francona, the 2004 manager.

"Tito used to have me in his office when I was doing good and when I was doing bad,'' recalled Ortiz. "When I was doing bad, to remind me who I was; when I was doing good, to remind me who I am. And he used to be in the office with players, left and right, talking, going back and forth.

"That, to me, I thought was great because the guy built up my confidence. But at the same time, he didn't just build it up -- he wanted me to keep it at that level.

"Him talking to me was like my Dad talking to me. Whether he was mad at me or happy for me, I would take it the same way. Me and Tito, we never argued or anything. At some point, things got a little rough and he did what he was supposed to do. He'd say, 'I gotta make a move, I've got to change things.' ''

Asked if the Sox had the proper personalities to get back to the 2004 approach, Ortiz quickly responded: "Some of them. We need more.''

Ortiz added that the Sox need more talent, but as recent history has shown, not just any talent will work in Boston.

"We need guys who can come here and shock the world,'' he said. "Guys who come in and say, 'Okay Boston, you're a tough town . . . Here I am. Let me see. Let me try this.'

"You've got to be able to handle it. These days, you're not a baseball player, you're on TV like a movie star. So there's things that come with that.''

The Sox can't be turned around by bringing in one or two stars. Instead, the team needs to have a full roster to contribute.

"Every single person in the clubhouse needs to try to do something every day to win a ballgame,'' he said. "That's just responsibility. When I go to hit, I want to change the game. I want to make sure I put my team in a better situation. If you have 25 guys going at it like that, that's how you win the World Series.

"Tuesday night, I saw that. I saw it. I saw this guy that nobody knows, came in and played good defense. The guy who pinch-hit, nobody knows him, got the hit to win the game. The guy that comes in to face a right-hander and got his ass out. Those little things, 25 guys, are what you need.''

Ortiz said "there are some guys out there,'' who could help fix the Sox in a hurry.

"To give you a name,'' said Ortiz, "a guy I love to watch play, Michael Bourne. That guy's fun to watch. Let's say you have Cody Ross re-signed and Ells Jacoby Ellsbury -- I would have Cody playing left, and have Bourne playing right field (with Ellsbury in center). Now you have the whole outfield covered.

"He's going to hit at the top of the lineup, he's going to get on base, a good hitter, he knows what he's doing, plays defense. Guys like that, they make a difference everywhere they go.''

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.