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Francona: David Ortiz needs to face left-handed pitchers

01.31.11 at 8:58 pm ET
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David Ortiz endured significant lefty-righty splits in 2010, but manager Terry Francona still plans to play him against southpaws. (AP)

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, prior to a Town Hall meeting between team executives and members of the public, said that even though David Ortiz has endured a significant dropoff in his offense in recent seasons against left-handed pitchers, he does not believe that he can simply sit the DH against southpaws.

Ortiz hit .222 with a .275 OBP, .324 slugging mark and two homers in 185 at-bats against lefties. He hit .297/.416/.643 with 30 homers in 333 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. From 2008-10, Ortiz is hitting .218/.291/.393 against lefties, and .274/.383/.549 against right-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, in Mike Cameron and Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox will have a pair of strong bench options against left-handed pitchers. But Francona does not envision pushing Ortiz into a platoon.

“For David to be successful — and I see his numbers against lefties, believe me, I do — you can’t just sit him because I don’t know if he’d have as much success against righties. I know we believe that,” said Francona. “I think there are times where it’ll do him good to maybe give him a break against somebody he struggles with. That wasn’t necessarily the case [last] April. He was struggling against everybody, and we were struggling to win.”

Francona further elaborated on the difficult balancing act he faced last April, when Ortiz struggled desperately out of the gate for the second straight year, while Mike Lowell languished on the bench.

“For whatever reason, the last two years have been horrendous starts. Thankfully, he’s pulled out of it. There’s no getting around it. Last April was awful. It was hard. You get through it, and we had to kind of fire our way through it at times, and thankfully we did. But it was hard,” said Francona. “I lost a lot of sleep over that. We always tell guys the night before if they’re playing. It’s something that we do, and I’m real comfortable with it. I remember one night in New York, I think [CC] Sabathia might’ve been pitching (the next day), and for one of the few times since I’ve been here, I had to go out and tell guys, ‘I don’t know. We’ll call you tomorrow.’ Maybe in some places that’s normal, but it really bothered me. It was a lot of anxiety for an April game. It was important to them, so it should’ve been important to me.”

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