On Monday night, the Boston Red Sox held a Town Hall Meeting to allow management to answer questions about this upcoming Red Sox team. They discussed several burning topics, none more interesting than the David Ortiz situation. Many people have written about the slugger this off-season, because he is entering the final year of his contract, he has struggled in April the past 2 seasons and he has struggled against lefties recently. Terry Francona spoke to the fans about sitting Ortiz against lefties and was adamant against that general policy, taking the position that in order to have overall success and comfort at the plate, the big hitter needed to hit against most everyone. (more after the jump)
For David to be successful — and I see his numbers against lefties, believe me, I do — you can’t just sit him, because I don’t know if he’d have as much success against righties. I know we believe that. I think there are times where it’ll do him good to maybe give him a break against somebody he struggles with. That wasn’t necessarily the case [last] April. He was struggling against everybody, and we were struggling to win. – Terry Francona on David Ortiz
It is interesting to see Francona take that position. In effect, he basically said that pinch-hitting for Ortiz with Mike Lowell a few times early in 2010 was a mistake, because it didn’t allow Ortiz to get his swagger going. It will be interesting to see what position Francona takes this season if in fact Ortiz struggles in April once again, especially if Mike Cameron or another righty on the bench is hitting well. I am not always a believer in match-up statistics, but if Ortiz is hitting in the low .200’s against left-handed pitchers and someone else is hitting .300 against them consistently, it is going to be hard to leave Ortiz in the starting lineup. He also had other distractions in the past and unfortunately, this year will be no exception without a new contract on the table beyond 2011.
In concept, keeping Ortiz in the lineup may pay off and result in a better and more balanced overall season from the slugger. Ultimately, I will be shocked if he starts against C.C. Sabathia or any other top lefties, because it puts him in a position to fail and hurt the team. If the Red Sox want to compete for a World Series title in 2011, Ortiz needs to be a powerful force in the middle of the lineup on most days and an even more feared late-game pinch-hitter when not starting. The Sox could really benefit from him getting himself going early in the season in order to alleviate the pressure from new-comers Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford on day 1.
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The other topic of note that was discussed just prior to the Town Hall Meeting with fans was Dustin Pedroia’s recovery from foot surgery at the end of last season. It appears he is healing well and will be ready to go in Spring Training. Francona said that the team will have to check in on him daily to be sure his rehab is going well and he is progressing forward, but he will likely not be severely limited at any point. This is great news for the Red Sox, because he is an anchor on the infield and will need time to get comfortable with his new teammate (Gonzo) at 1st base and with throws from Kevin Youkilis at 3rd base and not 1st. Being comfortable with the players around you on the diamond is crucially important to success, especially in the fast-paced infield world.
Like anybody that’s had a screw put in [their foot], you have some days where you’re like so thankful. You feel those little milestones or breakthroughs, and then, you have a couple days where you get frustrated. But I think from talking to him and the people that are running his rehab that he’s going to come through this with flying colors. … We’ll check with him every day, but I think he’s going to be OK. – Terry Francona on Dustin Pedroia’s recovery