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

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

CHESNUT HILL -- The Red Sox Rookie Development Program is designed to help young players prepare for what playing at the major-league level is like,. That can be valuable for a prospect like Rafael Devers, who hasn’t even made it to Double-A.

But of the eight-man cast at the workout this year, there’s one guy who actually has major-league experience.

Robby Scott joined the Red Sox as a September call-up last season and turned some heads, holding opponents scoreless over six innings of work.

Now the lefty is back working with younger guys to prepare himself for spring training -- something he’s itching to get started.

“It’s one thing that we always talk about,” the left-handed reliever told CSNNE.com “It’s a tough road to get there, but it’s an even tougher and harder road to stay there. And having that taste in September last year was incredible to be a part of it.”

That taste Scott had last fall has only made the desire to rejoin Boston greater.

“Yeah, because now you know what it’s like,” Scott said CSNNE.com. “You see it and you’re there and you’re a part of it. And it’s like, ‘Man, I wanna be there.’ You’re a little bit more hungry.”

And his hunger to pitch with the Red Sox only becomes greater at an event like this where he’s the only one with MLB time.

“They ask on a consistent basis,” Scott started, “ ‘What’s it like?’ ‘What was it like getting there the first day?’ ‘How did the guys react?’ ‘What was it like dealing with the media?’

“That’s what this program is here for, just to kind of gives these guys a little taste of what it is like and get familiar with the circumstances.

While the experience and constant discussion invites players to try to do more in the offseason or change their routine, the 27-year-old has stayed the course, trusting what’s gotten him there.

“The offseason training stays the same, nothing really changes on that side of things,” Scott said. “Nothing changes. Go about my business the way I have the last six, seven years.”