Ortiz swinging back at his critics

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Ortiz swinging back at his critics

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON How are all those prognostications who predicted David Ortizs demise looking now?

Ortiz is hitting .325 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI. He is among the league leaders in several offensive categories including average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, hits, multihit games, total bases, and extra-base hits.

Better yet, he is hitting .355 (22-for-62) against left-handers this season. A career .260 hitter against lefties, he went 3-for-3 against Oakland starter Brett Anderson Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. Entering the game, Ortiz had just one hit in 10 career at-bats against Anderson.

His three hits Sunday tie a season high for the fifth time, all since May 5. Since May 31, he is 7-for-8 (.875) against lefties, with three doubles, a home run, and five RBI. Its the ninth time in his career hes had at least three hits in a game against a lefty. The last, though, was, Sept. 21, 2007, at Tampa Bay.

Hes taking a different approach at the plate this season, he said.

I always hit against lefties, he said. But I got to say I got caught into not putting attention to it the past few years and because of that I walked into bad habits. But I always had some good at-bats, even not hitting for average against lefties. The year before I had some good at-bats against lefties and then mostly I turned away from what I wanted to do. Right now, what Im doing is just trusting my hands and not try to look for both sides of the plate. I pick one side and I go from there and then when they give me the pitch Im not missing it. Thats it.

Because lefties are super-tricky. That guy Sunday, hes tough. But you know what? He knows how to use both sides of the plate. But I didnt go to the plate looking for both sides of the plate. Every pitch he threw me was what I was looking for, away. He gave me pitches away. Hell throw it in. But if youre looking for both, youre not going to react. Throw two baseballs to someone at once, see which one they hit. Thats what happens when youre looking on both sides of the plate. Youre looking for two baseballs. you cant do that. I got caught into that a lot.

Hes trying to return to the approach he used in 2006, when he hit .278 against lefties with 18 home runs in 205 at-bats.

The past few years have been when I havent put up great numbers against lefties. But I have hit lefties before. There was one year that I hit like 18, 20 homers against lefties in 2006. So its not like I never hit lefties. Im just making adjustments. Im going to try to stay there all year. We got four months left. The good thing is that you got fellow lefties Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez hitting in front of me. I watch video. I get my idea from what I see that day. We try to take advantage of it. Thats about it.

The lone out he made Sunday came in the seventh inning, against right-hander Fautino De Los Santos, a long fly ball to deep center, which Coco Crisp tracked down. With three hits already, Ortiz could joke about the out.

Man, only Coco can get that, Ortiz said. You saw that. I went to the video and I was like, Coco why you got to do me like that? Cocos one of the best out there. What can you do?

When Ortiz is doing what he can do, especially against lefties like he has been, it makes the Sox lineup that much more potent.

Remember last year when things were going rough for us against lefties? said manager Terry Francona. There were days when David or J.D. Drew didnt do anything. It made us vulnerable. Right now, Davids, thats a good a swing as youre going to see. The one out he made against a righty, he hit if farther than 10 feet, but against lefties hes staying balanced, hes driving the ball to left field, left-center. That really helps us. When he is hitting in the middle of the order and hes swinging like that against left-handers, thats really going to help us.

He's pretty much locked in pretty good, said Carl Crawford, who hit his first home run at Fenway this season. It's hard to get him out when he's going the other way like that. For us, as a team, we love it because he's been driving in a lot of runs and when a pitcher makes a mistake he's going to hit it out of the park.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.