ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A sore oblique muscle, not a controversial newspaper column, sent David Ortiz into a slump last week, the Boston Red Sox designated hitter told ESPN Deportes columnist Enrique Rojas on Tuesday afternoon.
Ortiz elaborated on his remarks after the game, saying that he has been dealing with tightness in his left oblique muscle ever since he hurt it swinging the bat when the Sox were in Texas on the first weekend of May. He came into Tuesday night's game in Tropicana Field with just one hit in his previous 20 at-bats, but drove a 402-foot, three-run home run into the right-field seats off Tampa Bay left-hander Matt Moore in the first inning Tuesday night. That accounted for all of Boston's runs in a 5-3 loss to the Rays, the team's ninth loss in its last 11 games.
Sitting out Sunday's game and getting an additional day off Monday may have helped, Ortiz said, but he still feels discomfort in the muscle.
"It wasn't grabbing me that much," he said, "but it was still grabbing me a little bit. That's why I've been pulling everything, it feels like. Hopefully,
it doesn't get any worse."
Ortiz said that when he has tried to drive the ball the other way, he has been hooking it instead, which indicates to him that the muscle is bothering him.
"I'm going to keep on playing," he said. "It's not at the point where it's getting worse. Hopefully it won't get any worse. It bothers me on some swings that I take. Last week I was watching some videos of outside pitches I was kind of pulling. When you get to the point where you want to drive the ball the other way and the next thing you know, you're hooking the ball, that's not normal."
Is it wise for him to be playing?
"What do you think?" he said. "I've got to play. I've had enough time off. It's not at a point where you can pull [the muscle]. If you pull it, then you're definitely not able to play. I come in early, treat it, try to move forward."
The Red Sox have scored three runs or fewer seven times in their last 11 games, losing all of them. The last time they won a game with just three runs was on May 2 in Toronto, when Ryan Dempster beat the Blue Jays, 3-1. Overall, they are 4-12 in games in which they've scored three or fewer runs; 1-9 in games in which they've scored one or two runs.
The Sox were outhit by the Rays, 11-3, on Tuesday night. Sox batters struck out a dozen times, with Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes striking out three times apiece. Gomes is batting just .182, while Napoli's numbers are virtually identical to those he posted in May, except the RBIs have not come in the bunches they did in April. After driving in 27 runs in April, Napoli has 6 RBIs in the first dozen games in May.
"Frustration level? I don't know man, it's funny you ask that question," Ortiz said. "Not funny, but in the last couple of years when we get into a funk, it's pretty much everybody. It's like when we're playing well, everybody is playing well at the same time.
"It's kind of strange, but if you got a couple of guys who stay hot, you wouldn't notice things that bad. But you look around, right now it's pretty much everybody struggling. Hopefully, we'll bounce back because our pitchers are doing a helluva job."
Ortiz told Rojas that a Boston Globe column suggesting he was suspected of using steroids had not distracted him into a slump. "Not really," he said, though he has expressed anger at columnist Dan Shaughnessy since publication of the column.