ANAHEIM, Calif. — The managing of David Ortiz — managing against him and managing him as a player — has become a challenge.
Ortiz, named Saturday to the All-Star team for the ninth time in his career, would probably benefit by not playing in the game. But because he was voted in by the fans, he feels an obligation to be there.
At 37, Ortiz is still an outstanding hitter. He wasn’t in the lineup Friday against Angels lefthander C.J. Wilson, getting some rest for his achy heels. He was back in Saturday night. Ortiz has been rested twice in the last five games, an indication that perhaps there’s a little more soreness creeping in than earlier this season.
“I’ve felt a little stiff in that area, no question about it,” he said. “I just hate not being in the lineup. I haven’t been doing what they thought I should do. I think I went something like 30 games in a row and I wasn’t supposed to. That’s not going to help this. We took the long flight to L.A., six hours, and the doctor advised that maybe I should take the first game off because after the flight I might have felt a little tighter. The doctor talked to John [Farrell] and that’s what we did. I want to be out there all the time, I don’t like being out of the lineup, but I need to be smart, too. I want to last the year.”
So Farrell has to manage him. He really has no idea how much rest Ortiz will need going forward, nor does Ortiz. The important thing is that he last the entire season, because this Red Sox lineup, as currently constituted, needs Ortiz’s presence in the middle.
Ortiz and the Red Sox seem to get backlash from some fans when Ortiz takes a day off. He may not play in the field but the wear and tear on his legs from running the bases is nonetheless wear and tear. When you’re 37 and you’ve gone through Achilles’ and heel issues, it’s not as easy as some people make it out to be.
Any trip around the bases at full tilt can result in an injury. It’s part of playing baseball with that injury at Ortiz’s age, so being smart and pulling back when there’s a little soreness is a smarter way to go about it.
“It’s a tough situation and it’s not going to be easy going forward. I just have to be truthful about when I need to have time off,’’ said Ortiz. “I don’t want to hurt this team by not being in the lineup and I’m feeling great at the plate. I can help here, but I’ve get to let things calm down when I get a little tight and stiff.”
Was it irritating for Ortiz not to play in the final game of the homestand against Toronto? It absolutely infuriated some e-mailers to this column. Ortiz isn’t milking it, folks. He’s not “soft” and he’s not a prima donna. He knows his body and how it feels and how much he can push it. Farrell has been surprised at how much he’s gotten out of Ortiz to date. Farrell has been surprised how hard and well Ortiz has run the bases. He hasn’t held back, but on those days when he feels he can’t do it, everyone is just going to be patient with that decision.
Ortiz is right when he says he’s feeling good at the plate, which is why his absence from the lineup can be tough for the Sox.
While Farrell will have his hands full trying to find the right mix of rest, imagine managing against Ortiz, who is still one of the most dangerous hitters.
Ortiz isn’t Barry Bonds. But in terms of a dangerous hitter in a key situation, yes, Ortiz will hurt you.
Some get it, because he’s been walked intentionally 13 times (tied with New York’s Robinson Cano for the major league lead), eight times in June. He should have added to his total Friday night against the Angels. He was sent up to pinch hit in the eighth inning with first base open and Daniel Nava at second in a 3-2 game. Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to pitch to him.
Farrell wasn’t going to complain. It’s bad enough righthander Dane De La Rosa made a mistake with a pitch; Scioscia made a mistake with the decision to pitch to Ortiz. Tight game, the most dangerous hitter on the Red Sox comes up after sitting on the bench all game. OK, maybe Scioscia thought Ortiz wasn’t in the flow of the game, or that De La Rosa could get a 95 mile-per-hour heater past Ortiz.
He couldn’t. Ortiz blasted a homer to right on the second pitch, giving the Sox a 5-2 lead en route to a 6-2 win.
Listen, the Angels lost the first game of this three-game series for many other reasons, like Josh Hamilton dropping a fly ball in right that led to the go-ahead run, but Scioscia seemed to help things along for the Red Sox.
Jim Croce once sang, “don’t tug on Superman’s cape.”
Even Ortiz’s outs lately have been hit hard. He’s just in one of those hitting zones right now.