McAdam: Ortiz feels right against lefties again

McAdam: Ortiz feels right against lefties again
June 1, 2011, 4:13 am
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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