Ortiz, McDonald bond with positive attitudes

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Ortiz, McDonald bond with positive attitudes

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
The text messages came nearly every day. There were phone calls, too. As Darnell McDonald completed a recent rehab assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket, encouragement from the big leagues was consistent.

The source: David Ortiz.

It has been over a year since McDonald was called up to the Boston Red Sox last April and took a seat a few feet away from Ortiz in the clubhouse. In that time, the locker mates have developed such a strong friendship that Ortiz considers McDonald family. Ortiz refers to him as D-Mac, an abbreviation of McDonalds name; McDonald calls Ortiz Big Pun, a reference to the rapper Big Punisher.

Even though the designated hitter and reserve outfielder do not spend much time together on the field, their time spent away from the game has helped them both.

D-Mac is like a brother to me, Ortiz said. I knew him from before the Red Sox but we started getting to know each other since we started playing together. But it doesnt take too long to get to be familiar with a guy like him. Hes cool as hell, and on top of that, he hits you with what you want to hear.

McDonald, 32, had looked up to Ortiz, 35, for years before joining him in Boston. It didnt take him long, though, to sense there was something off about the dominating hitter.

At the time of McDonalds call-up, Ortiz was in a slump (he batted .143 in April 2010). The struggles were obvious to McDonald, and he wanted to help him break through them.

When I watched Big Papi on TV, he always has the patented spit in the gloves and clap, he recalled. He stopped doing it and I told him, When kids watch TV and theyre doing your stance, theyre doing the spit in the gloves and the clap. Weve got to get you going again, got to get your swag. Youre Big Papi.' "

McDonald paused, "He was acting like Little Papi."

McDonald offered Ortiz encouragement while he enjoyed success of his own. He hit a home run in his first at-bat with the Red Sox and made a name for himself by stepping up in an injury-hampered outfield. After playing in over 1,300 minor-league games since 1998, McDonald relished in his opportunity in the Majors. He batted .270 in 117 games last season.

His positive attitude was infectious and his teammate fed off of it. Ortiz broke out of the rut, hitting .363 in May and also finishing the season batting .270, thanks in part to the support of his friend who was rooting him on the entire time.

Hes always there for whenever anybody needs them, said Ortiz. Theres not a better teammate.

This season Ortiz got off to a solid start, but unlike last year, there were not as many opportunities for McDonald early on. Prior to Carl Crawfords recent hamstring injury, the Red Sox outfielders had been healthy for the most part. As a result, McDonald did not see as much playing time.

He appeared in 19 games, batting .143, before going on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps on May 26. He was sent to the Pawtucket Red Sox for rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

Youve got to just try, said McDonald. Baseball is a humbling game, a lot of failure. Getting down about it isnt going to make it any better. Just watching how Pun goes about it every day, that helps everyone out because he doesnt panic.

This season Ortiz has been there to share his encouragement just as McDonald did for him. He didnt think twice to reach out while McDonald was in Pawtucket.

Me and Darnell, we go back and forth pretty much every day, talking, texting, he said. It was great to have him come back. I knew he wasnt going to be down there for too long.

McDonald smiled as he recalled the messages. During his rehab stint, Ortiz was named American League Player of the Week after batting .545 during a stretch in early June. As always, this didnt go unnoticed by McDonald.

He told me keep working hard, McDonald said. I was hitting him up too because he was swinging the bat real well, doing his thing, so I was telling him to go get his paper, too. It was just back-and-forth encouragement.

McDonald was activated from the disabled list on June 14 and saw action two days later, recording a hit, a run, and an RBI against the Tampa Bay Rays. Crawfords injury has created an opportunity for playing time as McDonald has appeared in six games since his return from Pawtucket.

Even though McDonald has not recorded a hit since that first game back against the Rays (.108 BA on the season), Ortiz is still in his corner.

I always offer support to Darnell, he said. I just tell my man to stay sharp. Hes going to have a hard time getting in the lineup because of the situation we have. Last year he played more because of the all the injuries and stuff. I dont know how he does it, though. I dont think Id be able to play like that because Im used to the everyday play.

While McDonald keeps a positive outlook himself, he appreciates the words of kindness from Ortiz. His advice meshes with McDonalds never too high, never too low mentality and means a lot to McDonald coming from a proven All-Star.

He taught me just be the same every day. Whether things are going good or bad, come to the field with the same approach every day, said McDonald. It means a lot. Thats Big Papi, you know? If Big Papi tells you something, you listen. Hes been around a long time, done a lot of things, so he always has some words of wisdom, always encouraging.

Its fun for me to come to the field every day and be right here next to Pun.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar