David Ortiz may not like to be pinch-hit for or sit out some games but, for the good of the team, that is going to have to happen.
Ortiz went on a tear once he got by the first month. During that first month, there were discussions about his best days being behind him, even his career being behind him. Not yet on his career, but perhaps so on the best years.
When tired, Ortiz’s bat slows down and he can be beaten with fastballs, especially inside. At the age of 34, there are years left, but a few days off will only make him better.
Ortiz has already questioned manager Terry Francona once for pinch-hitting for him. It should be the last.
No one is more supportive of veterans than Francona — especially those on the Sox who took the team to championship seasons.
What Francona knows and Ortiz must reluctantly realize is that yesterday is just that. Winning today comes with a different set of names and decisions.
Ortiz will get more than enough at bats and, with a breather here and there, he will remain an integral part of winning.
Look at how well that’s working out for Jason Varitek.
Victor Martinez had a slow first six weeks. Since then, he is hitting over .500, driving in runs with a .330 average with runners in scoring position and has a dozen extra-base hits.
Martinez and Kevin Youkilis are burning up lefties this year. Martinez is hitting .482 against them compared to .273 last year. His .203 average against righthanders creates the largest differential in the AL.
Youkilis is hitting .416 against the southpaws and .291 vs. righthanders and that is the fourth largest differential.
The Red Sox have picked up the winning pace on the road. Last year they were 39-42, still the third-best road record in the AL.
This year they were 13-10 going into Monday night’s game. Part of the improvement comes from the bat of Adrian Beltre who has the third-best AL average on the road and the fifth most RBIs.
Beltre is also hitting .337 with two strikes, second in the AL only to Ichiro Suzuki.
When the Sox were in Baltimore this past weekend, they arrived as the Orioles changed managers on Friday, relieving Dave Trembley of his duties.
Francona sent the visiting clubhouse attendant out to get Trembley’s number before Friday’s game and left a message to “tell him I was thinking of him.”
“I know what that feels like,” Francona told me. “The same thing happened to me in Philadelphia. There we expectations, then everything that could go wrong did.
“The bullpen’s got injuries, key players got hurt, and the young kids were asked to do stuff they weren’t ready to do,” said Francona of the Philly situation. “Same thing has happened here in Baltimore.”
There are only 30 major-league managers and when one takes a hit, the others reflect and commiserate.