|Magadan: Ortiz Looking ‘Hitter-ish’||06.11.09 at 1:11 pm ET|
The moment was almost uncomfortable, not for what happened, but for what followed.
Mike Lowell had just launched a homer to lead off the third inning. But the ovation for Lowell was not as enthusiastic or sustained as the one when David Ortiz followed by jumping on a 93 mph fastball from Chien-Ming Wang, and hammering it to the Triangle in centerfield at Fenway Park. The ball died short of the fence, traveling about 400 to 410 feet for a loud out. Yet the Red Sox fans, in a show of support for the Sox’ D.H., offered a rousing ovation for the simple act of a hard-hit ball.
The fact that there would be such a response to a well-struck ball underscores how deep Ortiz’ struggles have been to start this year. Nonetheless, the indications are now increasingly frequent that Ortiz is moving beyond his season-opening futility.
Through the first 10 days of June, Ortiz is hitting .269 with an .883 OPS and two homers. He’s also had several ringing outs. The difference — to Ortiz, and to those in the Red Sox dugout — is obvious.
“He’s looking like he’s got some confidence. He’s consistently hitting the ball hard. His outs tonight were loud outs,” hitting coach Dave Magadan said after last night’s 6-5 Red Sox win over the Yankees. “He’s getting his pitch and he’s exploding on it. He took (two walks).
“He’s just looking very hitter-ish up there,” said Magadan. “He’s got a little bit of a swagger going. Hopefully sooner than later he’s going to start becoming his old self.”
Perhaps the most pronounced difference for Ortiz is that, when he misses, it seems that he’s missing by millimeters rather than feet. In recent days, his expressions of frustration have most typically occurred when he’s just missed (fouling off or hitting high pop-ups) a pitch that he was anticipating and whose arrival he had timed well. His balance on those swings has remained intact. That is a stark contrast to the uncertainty that he seemed to be offering in the batter’s box just a couple weeks ago, when he would be unable to pull the trigger on hittable pitches, or when he’d seem to misread badly what was being thrown to the plate.
“When you’re not swinging the bat the way you want to swing it, you become a little unsure of the strike zone,” said Magadan. “What he’s looked like over the last week, he’s aggressive in his strike zone and he’s confident that he’s going to do some damage.”
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