Lowell replaces Ortiz in lineup

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Lowell served as designated hitter Thursday for the Red Sox in place of David Ortiz against Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano.

Manager Terry Francona made the announcement after Wednesday's 6-3 win over the Twins.

Ortiz had an opposite-field double and walk Wednesday, but also struck out twice, his fifth consecutive game with multiple strikeouts. He began the night leading the majors in strikeouts, having whiffed in precisely half, 13, of his 26 at-bats. He is batting just .154 with two RBIs and no home runs.

Ortiz acknowledged after Wednesday's game that the intense scrutiny his poor start has received has bothered him.

"People sometimes talk about you, you know, but they have no idea how badly you're struggling mentally, and how bad you try to do your stuff,'' he said. "It's not like I just come out to the park, sit here, then play the game. It's not like that. It's never been like that.

"So when people come out and start to try to bury your ass, it hurts.''

The decision to play Lowell against Liriano was planned even before Wednesday's game, as Francona has said he is trying to keep his bench players sharp. Lowell started at third base in place of Adrian Beltre last Saturday in Kansas City and had a single in four trips during an 8-3 win over the Royals.

Lowell had a hit, but the Red Sox were shut out 8-0 on Thursday.

Francona said he is not inclined to platoon at DH at this stage of the season.

"It's not fantasy baseball, it's not like chess pieces,'' he said before Wednesday's game. "Certainly you like to have strategy and things like that. I think players, I think they appreciate letting them go play.

"I think if I fall into, you know, whether it's two, five, seven games into a season, pulling the trigger … any time I've done something like that, I've been pretty sure how I feel. Whether it was the year we moved Pap into the closer's role, I kind of knew how I felt. So we didn't wait around."

Jonathan Papelbon replaced Keith Foulke as the Sox closer three games into the 2006 season.

"Guys need time, the team needs time to settle in,'' Francona said. "If I do not allow them time to settle in, it's just going to prolong what we're going through.''