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Everybody settle down about Big Papi

04.09.10 at 12:24 am ET
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The first series of the year for the Boston Red Sox didn’t end the way they would have liked.

After coming from behind to beat the Yanks on Opening Day, the Sox dropped the next two. The talk about the first three games of the year has been exhausting. It seems as though David Ortiz will be a topic for discussion until the big DH shuts up all doubters with his bat. Is he capable of doing exactly that? That’s yet to be seen.

Even if David comes out and swings the bat like he did the final four months of last season, when he led the AL in homers, tied for the lead in runs batted in and finished third in slugging percentage, it won’t be enough for some.

I’ve already heard, “But it was against bad pitchers,” or “None of them were clutch hits.” I agree that the days of David hitting .300 with 50 homers are over, but I still think that he can be productive, hitting .265-30-100.

A few observations on David Ortiz through the first three games …

He is missing some good pitches to hit.  He is either fouling them back or swinging through them. I’m sure he’d like to get a few of them back. But I do like the way he is staying within the strike zone.  In Game 1, David saw 20 pitches in four at bats. He saw the same 20 pitches in Game 2. In Game 3, it was 16 pitches. The point is is that he is working the count, getting in good hitter’s counts, seeing pitches and not chasing out of the zone. As a hitter, one of the most important things is to swing at strikes. You can’t make a living swinging at balls outside of the zone.

The best thing for David is indeed this six-game road trip. Its an opportunity to get away from the chaos that is Boston. There won’t be 30 members of the media in Kansas City or Minnesota. He won’t be listening to talk radio (not that he does). It’s a chance to clear his head and realize that it’s the first week of the season.

Big Papi is well aware how important it is for him to get off to a good start this year. He doesn’t need to be reminded of it after two or three games. If there is anything that he can take away from his tough start last year, it’s that no matter how bad you start, you can recover and still have a productive season. Can he have a two-month stretch like he did at the start of last year? I don’t believe he can, but I’m willing to give him a month or so to get it going. He’s too important to this lineup not to give him that long of a leash.

We all talked about how important he was going to be to this team coming into this year. If that’s the case, how can people talk about pulling him out of the lineup so quick? I don’t understand it. We call ourselves baseball fans, but ask yourself this: Over the years have we ever seen someone struggle early in the year only to come back and be a very productive player? So why is this any different?

I understand that there is a track record with David over the last two years, but injuries have been an issue. After the ’07 season, David had knee surgery. It’s never a good thing when a “big” guy has a lower extremity issue. You could see early in 2008 that David was favoring his knee at the plate, not sitting down on his legs when hitting. It took a while that season, but he got it going, only to injure his wrist midway through the year. That offseason, David admits that he didn’t hit as much as he would have liked. That fact, paired with the World Baseball Classic, meant that Big Papi just wasn’t ready to start the year.  He paid the price last season as it took him two months to find any kind of rhythm. This offseason was different. He had no injuries to rehab.

But he now has another battle on his hands —  a fan base that is extremely impatient. Fans don’t want to wait a month or two. They want Big Papi back and they want him back NOW. How does he handle it? It may take a few weeks to answer that question, but if you ask me, he’s still earned that much patience after everything he has given Red Sox Nation since the first day he became one of ours.

Read More: David Ortiz,
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