LOS ANGELES – You can strike a pretty good debate on this one.
Did John Farrell make the right decision playing David Ortiz at first base Saturday in a 3-0 loss at Dodger Stadium — only to have Ortiz opt out when his body stiffened and he needed to be replaced in the bottom of the sixth?
Were his three at-bats better than the one pinch-hitting appearance he would have made? Will the stiffness linger into Tuesday when he's scheduled to start again against the Yankees?
First of all, Ortiz started at first base for the first time this season. He has rarely taken a ground ball and didn't even touch his glove in spring training. But Ortiz told Farrell he did not want to sit for three days against the Dodgers, even though he might pinch-hit in all three games.
Farrell signed off on the idea.
Ortiz lasted five innings before overall body stiffness set in when Farrell immediately took him out of the game. Ortiz had gone 0 for 3, but we all know what Ortiz is known for – late-inning heroics. He missed one last at-bat in the eighth inning.
In his first at-bat, Ortiz had two runners on in the first inning and grounded out on a great play by second baseman Howie Kendrick. There was a runner on second and two outs in the third when he flied to left. In the sixth, he struck out swinging.
Should he have played at all?
"Got a little sore out there, decided to come out of the game before it got worse," Ortiz said.
Why did he insist on playing first base?
"I just didn't want to take three days without playing," Ortiz said.
After he came out of the game, Farrell moved third baseman Travis Shaw to first and inserted Aaron Hill at third.
The irony of it all is that Ortiz made two very good plays at first base.
"Good hands never leave you," Ortiz quipped.
Ortiz stayed lighthearted about opting out. He was asked by a Los Angeles reporter whether this experience would change his approach in the future.
"Future? What future? Future is right now. I've got no more future buddy," Ortiz said. "Haven't you read the newspaper? I ain't playing no more after this season."
When told the Red Sox have one more interleague series against San Diego in September, he answered, "We'll see what's happening between now and then."
Should Farrell have let Ortiz play? Yes. When Ortiz wants to play in the field in interleague games, he should get his wish. Farrell was right in saying you'd rather three at-bats from Ortiz than one. The fact that Ortiz didn't get a hit in those three at-bats is just the way it goes. Would he have made a difference in one pinch-hit appearance? We'll never know.
"He started to stiffen up. It was his first time on the field all year. Getting three or four at-bats as opposed to one pinch-hit," Farrell explained.
Farrell said he was hopeful that Ortiz could make it through without any issues. He was hopeful the Red Sox could score some runs, so he'd be able to take Ortiz out for defensive reasons late in the game, but those situations didn't take place.
"Got to monitor David. He's got a unique situation. When he reported stiffness we got him off his feet," Farrell said.
Ortiz said he was OK after the game. He will likely sit Sunday.
We know Ortiz has achy legs and sometimes a balky back and that's the main reason he's retiring. Sure, everyone wants to keep him upright for the remainder of the season, but the fact that he feels good enough to play a game in the field should be music to everyone's ears.
And despite a couple of acrobatic catches, Ortiz wouldn't have done anything daring to injure himself. He had to stretch for a ball to make a nice stab of a line drive in the first inning. In the fifth inning, Ortiz made another nice stab of a hot liner, getting down on one knee to make the catch. No harm there either.
Even offensively he's scaled down trying to stretch a single into a double. He doesn't go first to third very often and he hasn't had to score from second base very often either.
Yes, there's more risk of him getting hurt batting than fielding.
He's always a little sore after he plays first base because he does it so seldom and he's using muscles he doesn't normally use.
This is it for Ortiz. There aren't many tomorrows in baseball. He has plenty of time to rest next season.
If he wants to play first base in the next interleague play vs. San Diego next month, then let him do it. Having Ortiz on the bench and not starting is far worse than the small risk of injury by having him play the field.
On Saturday, it didn't matter. The Red Sox offense couldn't get it going offensively.
As Ortiz has said there aren't many tomorrows. If the stiffness lingers or affects him at the plate the rest of the year, then this will become a bigger story. The important thing here is that he came out of the game so he wouldn't hurt himself.
Maybe he just should have stuck to the schedule, but Ortiz wants to be in the postseason in his final year. And sitting it out just didn't sit well with him.