An authority on the subject of hitting, especially in the month of April at Fenway Park, David Ortiz seemed surprised when he learned about the significance of Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homer in the third inning of Wednesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Informed Ramirez’s 10th homer of the season, a long-distance deposit of R.A. Dickey’s 0-2 knuckleball into the Green Monster seats that broke a 1-1 stalemate, tied Ortiz for most homers in team history in April, Big Papi looked up from his locker and seemed taken aback.
“Oh really? I hit 10 home runs in April? I thought I [stunk] in the spring,’’ Ortiz said, breaking into a laugh, forgetting the fact he set the standard when he belted 10 homers in April 2006, doing so in 115 plate appearances over 25 games.
Before a Fenway Park crowd of 34,220, Ramirez matched the feat, but in 24 fewer plate appearances over 22 games.
Ramirez tied his career high for homers hit in any month after belting 10 in June 2008 with the Marlins.
“Oh, my goodness,’’ Ortiz marveled about Ramirez, who became the first player in franchise history to record 10 homers and 23 RBIs in April. “Reminds me of my younger days.’’
Ortiz was reminded of a frank conversation he had during spring training with Ramirez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, a pair of big-ticket free agent acquisitions who have punched up the Red Sox’ order.
“I basically told both of them, ‘You guys are better than what you have shown. I know you guys can get it done better,’ ” Ortiz said. “But to do that, there was two things they needed to work on and that was being patient and not chasing bad pitches. I told them they were both .300 hitters, with power, and they both looked at me like, ‘I think you’re right.’
“So now you see how the both of them are doing. Sometimes you just need to have someone tell you how good you are to have that confidence level.’’
Ramirez took Ortiz’s counsel to heart.
“Oh, yeah,’’ Ramirez said. “Every time Papi tells you something, you have to lift your head up and listen, because he knows what’s going on and he’s been through it.
“He was just trying to tell us not to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and not to try and do too much.’’
When he first came up in the Red Sox organization, Ramirez said he soaked up all he could about hitting by watching not only Ortiz, but also Manny Ramirez.
“Manny’s a great player. He was unbelievable,’’ Hanley Ramirez said. “He was one of the players I looked up to for hitting. His mechanics and how patient he was at the plate and how he was always just looking for one pitch and I’m just trying to do the same thing.’’
It has resulted in quite a start for Ramirez, who in the last 11 games since April 19 has hit .359 (14 for 39) with six homers, including the 200th of his career in Tuesday night’s 11-8 loss to the Blue Jays. It was the first time in his career he had homered against Toronto, leaving the Indians, Tigers, Royals, Angels, and Mariners as the teams on his bucket list.
“He’s swinging it really well. He’s off to one of the better starts I’ve seen,’’ said Sox starter Rick Porcello. “And that’s saying a lot, playing with guys like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez [in Detroit] for a couple of years. He’s doing a great job, and he’s going to continue to do that.
“He’s Hanley Ramirez for a reason.’’
After the April he put in the books, what are Ramirez’s hopes for May?
“Just a lot of wins,’’ he said. “Because it’s not about me. It’s about the team. We just got to keep winning.’’