BOSTON -- Terry Francona called David Ortiz Tuesday morning, but not to tell the Sox's struggling slugger that he intended to pinch hit for him later that night.
That flexibility Tuesday night translated into Ortiz coming out of the lineup for Mike Lowell in the seventh inning with left-hander Darren Oliver on the mound. It marked a dramatic departure of how Francona has done things in the past; in the first week of the season, he had said that it was too early to be hitting for Ortiz and didn’t want Ortiz to be looking over his shoulder.
Thirteen games into the season, Ortiz can commence looking over his shoulder. On Wednesday, with left-hander Matt Harrison pitching for the Rangers, Ortiz was out of the lineup and Lowell was in, and with another lefty, C.J. Wilson, scheduled for Thursday, Francona said he did not know whether Ortiz would play the next day.
UPDATE, 7:52 p.m.: Lowell added to the intrigue by homering in his first at-bat, a long shot over the Green Monster, in the bottom of the second. It was Lowell's first home run of the season in 13 at-bats.
“He didn’t fight me on it,’’ said Francona, saying he met again with Ortiz in his office just before meeting with reporters Wednesday afternoon. “I wouldn’t expect anyone who we pinch hit for giving us high-fives.
“He has a lot of pride, he has been an unbelievable player. We care about all of our players.’’
Ortiz came out for early hitting Wednesday, and appeared in good spirits during his regular round of batting practice, visiting with friends on the Rangers, including Vladimir Guerrero. He declined to speak with reporters.
The Red Sox DH broke his bat over his knee following his sixth-inning foul popup, which ended another futile night in which he struck out in his two previous at-bats and saw 19 consecutive fastballs without putting a single one in play.
Ortiz's average is down to .146, he has no home runs and just two RBIs. With 17 strikeouts, he has whiffed in 41.5 percent of his at-bats and has made contact on just 68 percent of his swings, down nearly 10 percent from his career percentage of 77.9 percent.