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Sox Get Back On Track, But What About Ortiz?

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Red Sox record for the Week of May 3-9: 5-2. Overall: 16-16, 4th place AL East

To start week five of the 2010 season and a 10-game homestand, the Boston Red Sox held a quick pregame team meeting led by manager Terry Francona that served to refocus as a group and start playing baseball at the high level expected of them. That was Monday (May 3). Next thing you knew, the Sox swept a surprisingly bad Los Angeles Angels squad in four games, outscoring them 36-16, and went into the weekend with a 15-14 record. All memories of a humiliating sweep by Baltimore were long gone.

Then the Yankees had to show up and do to the Sox what the Sox did to the Angels, for two games, anyway. Friday night, Josh Beckett (1-1) was bested by 4-0 youngster Phil Hughes. It was a relatively tight 3-1 game, with the Yankees on top by just two until the sixth inning, when Beckett quickly lost command of all of his pitches, letting up six runs on the board. Final score: 10-3.

Saturday night was a nightmare 14-3 loss, with Clay Buchholz (3-3) having his worst outing of 2010, letting up five ER in five innings, while the bullpen gave up the rest. Boston relief pitching was so spent by this point that young outfielder Jonathan Van Every became the fifth reliever of the game in the ninth and the first Sox position player to ever pitch against the Yankees. The icing on the cake: he served up a previously struggling Mark Teixeira’s third homer of the game and fourth hit on the night overall.

Sunday, Mother’s Day night, the true ace of the Sox staff Jon Lester (3-2) came to the rescue to pitch seven quality innings, record 7 Ks and allowed two earned runs, outdueling veteran A.J. Burnett, who like Beckett before him, lost it quickly. Five of his eight earned runs came in the third inning, and was knocked out for good in the fifth when Jeremy Hermida hit his fourth homer of the season, a two-run shot. He had three RBI in the game and is tied for second on the Sox squad with 19 overall, a remarkable 15 of which have come with two outs.

Big Papi No More?

It was also nice to see David Ortiz finally get his 10th RBI of the season in this game, but his .182 average is still pathetic and his low total offensive production already has fans and media around town wondering if the Sox will release him.

The front office, for its part, has recently said any changes now would be “symbolic,” and letting the 34-year-old DH go anytime soon would be a dramatic move and therefore isn’t going to happen, folks. He’s making $13 million in 2010, so the Sox are going to try and get the most out of him for as long as the can, even at a reduced role. Like reserve outfielder Bill Hall — he one-handed his first home run against the Angels last week and hit 35 of them for Milwaukee in 2006 — Ortiz can be a healthy power bat off the bench. But unlike Hall, he can’t play defense or do anything else to win ball games.

And once Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury come back, whenever that is, Hermida will become the premier (lefty) power bat off the bench. It’s a crapshoot after that, and assuming that all key position players are relatively healthy by sometime in June, the numbers game may finally force Ortiz out once and for all.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.