|Ortiz: ‘This game is not always going to be roses and flowers’||05.04.09 at 6:36 pm ET|
Mist is descending on a tarp-covered field at the new Yankee Stadium, a park that aesthetically resembles its across-the-street predecessor, but that occupies a simply enormous, enormous swath of land in the Bronx. The most obvious difference is that the Upper Tier, which sat directly over the lower sections at the old park, now extends much further back than the seats in the lower bowl. This place is BIG…and new.
“This is the big leagues right here. This is a big-league stadium right here,” said Sox shortstop Julio Lugo.
Of course, that raises a relevant question: what was the old Yankee Stadium?
“It was Little League,” chuckled Lugo.
For the low-down on the Yankees’ pre-game news, including the kind of home theater that A.J. Burnett can buy with an $82.5 million contract, check out Pete Abraham’s superb LoHud Yankees Blog.
As for the Sox, David Ortiz spoke at length for the second straight day about his four-week-old slump. More on that in a bit, but first, it seemed worth mentioning the following:
–Julio Lugo is sitting today in favor of shortstop Nick Green, and may end up doing the same tomorrow. Right now, Lugo — who met with manager Terry Francona before today’s game to discuss playing time — said of his part-time schedule, “I think it’s good for me.” The Sox and Lugo are trying to build the shortstop up physically. Francona said that, as of now, Lugo isn’t moving like the team anticipates he will when he is further removed from his March 17 knee surgery. For his part, Lugo suggested that his timing is a work in progress, particularly when he plays defense. He is hopeful that he’ll be ready to play on an everyday basis “pretty soon,” though the fine performance of Green to this point (.304 average, .835 OPS) might make it difficult to sit him in the short term.
–Despite the fact that the Rays stole eight bases against the Sox yesterday, and Carl Crawford swiped six by himself, Francona didn’t seem too bent out of shape. “I’m just not as shook up as maybe the rest of the world is,” he said. Tonight’s Red Sox starter, Jon Lester, does a tremendous job of controlling the running game thanks to one of the best pick-off moves in baseball. He already has picked five runners at first this year. Francona described Lester’s move to first as being in the same category as that of Andy Pettitte. That’s high praise indeed, given that Pettitte owns the major-league record with 95 pickoffs.
–Back to Ortiz: the slugger admits that he is in a monumental slump, describing his current full-season funk (a .208 average, a .600 OPS, no homers) as the worst of his career. He met with Francona before the game to talk at length about his struggles. Francona’s message, as relayed by Ortiz, was one of unqualified support.
“I don’t see Terry as my coach anymore. I see him as my dad. He’s been so great to me that everytime he talks, I’m nothing but ears,” said Ortiz. “(Francona’s message was) ‘relax. You’re trying to do too much. We’re going to go down together if you go down. I’ve been with you for years. I’ve got to suck it up if something bad happens. Don’t worry – just go ahead and play the game and forget about it.’”
Ortiz is treating his slump with candor, rather than pretending that everything is fine. The only solution, he said, is to try to clear his head of anxiety about the slump and to focus on doing the work necessary to return to his typical form.
“This game is not always going to be roses and flowers. There are tough times,” said Ortiz. “I’m going to keep fighting. That’s me. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. This ain’t the end of the world, like Manny said before. There’s always good days and bad days. You know what you need to do when bad days show up, right? Smile at it. Show your teeth. (Laugh) Keep fighting, keep working and good things are going to happen.”
For now, Ortiz hasn’t asked for a day off, but he admitted that he might consider doing so as a head-clearing measure if his slump continues. He has come out of slumps before — usually much more quickly — but he recalls stretches in which he couldn’t clear the fences for a week or two at a time.
Still, the slugger could not recall another time like this one, when the search for answers has proven so unrewarding.
“I’m the type of guy who’s never been in a slump for too long—20, 30 at-bats, maybe 40 at-bats without maybe hitting a home run, then the next thing you know, in the next 20 you hit five, six. That’s been me,” he said. “I ain’t never been in this kind of funk. I’m going to take this as something the baseball gods wanted to teach me. It’s not as easy as you made it look before. So I’m just going to stay positive, keep working.”
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