Red Sox: Please, No More David Ortiz At First Base!
That’s what Red Sox Nation may be thinking after last night’s game. Not that David Ortiz played badly, but the risk is greater than the reward for now.
Actually, Big Papi looked great on defense last night, against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He snagged two line drives that he had to range for to grab. However, as Quinn Roberts of MLB.com reported, “he was replaced at first in the sixth inning by Travis Shaw because of general stiffness.”
Ortiz told the media, “I got a little sore out there […] I didn’t want to make things worse. It started to crop up in the first inning.”
The first inning? Sure, there’s some rust that needs to come off before the car can rev its engine like it’s supposed to do, but Boston doesn’t need Ortiz to rip off the paint job while doing it. Feeling stiffness immediately after starting the game is a very bad sign.
Some of the pain may have had to do with the fact that much was demanded of Ortiz right away. Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “It is somewhat ironic that [Ortiz] hasn’t been on the field in almost a year, and the first ball that is put in play is a snare of a line drive on his part.”
And, it wasn’t like the sacrifices were for a good cause; the Red Sox lost to the Dodgers 3-0. Ortiz went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, before Aaron Hill took over his batting spot.
As BoSox Injection mentioned a few days ago, it’s not like there is much choice to put Ortiz in, if the Red Sox wanted to win the series against the Dodgers. With no designated hitter rule, Ortiz would either have to play first base, as it’s the only position that he’s qualified to play, or he would have to rest his mighty bat on the bench. Hanley Ramirez, the starting first baseman, sprained his left wrist last week and looked to be out for the weekend series in L.A., but he was able to return to the lineup on Friday. Even last night, Ramirez came in to pinch hit during a pitcher change, but the idea was for Ortiz to start at first to give Han-Ram more time to recover.
Well, if the stiffness continues, there’s no way that the Red Sox will recover from having their biggest and best hitter out with injury in his final season before retirement. Does Boston want to see Ortiz try to swing on one foot? Ortiz is hitting .309, with 25 home runs and 87 RBIs, all at the age of 40. His numbers puts him third on the team in batting average and in first place for RBI production.
Despite those numbers, the season has shown signs of wearing on him, as of late. In the last 15 games, Ortiz has hit only .217, even with two homers and 12 RBIs. In his last 28 at-bats, he’s hitting a mere .107 with three RBIs. He’s still finding a way to get the job done when teammates are on base, but Ortiz is at his best when he’s swinging free and true on the ball at all times. He’s not just a slugger, he’s an offensive threat as his .395 on-base percentage for the season suggests. He isn’t as big a factor when his average slips to the .103 it’s been for the past week.
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With that evidence in mind, the Red Sox need to just bare the possibility that either Hanley or Shaw or anyone else has to play first base for this last game against the Dodgers tonight. Their season might be riding on it if they do decide to play Ortiz at first base. It’s just one more game and then Boston goes home to play the player-depleted New York Yankees. Surely, another Red Sox player can play the position for just one night, can’t they? Right now, Ortiz’s bat isn’t going to get any better in one night while fighting off stiffness in his legs at first base. The Red Sox need to rest Ortiz, even if they must also rest Hanley, because it’s their best option for the long term, even if it doesn’t give them the best option to score runs tonight.