“When you play for the Red Sox and you come to play in Yankee Stadium, what do you expect? You tell me,” he said to the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley.
Of course, considering it was his first trip to the Bronx since being outed last Thursday for testing positive for a banned substance in 2003, Ortiz reconsidered.
“But it might get a little louder [Thursday]."
A little louder was an understatement. Ortiz hadn't even yet stepped on the field when fans in the right-field bleachers began a "Papi sucks" chant. Once Ortiz approached the plate in the top of the first inning, fans waved signs, laughed in joy and booed to their hearts' content.
Ortiz said he had some encouraging encounters during pregame warmups.
“I mean, I come out early to the field and just see the fans coming right at me. And you know, even Yankee fans, ‘Hey you’re the best. You’re a good guy. You just hang in there,’" he told The Boston Globe. "Some of the kind of stuff you want to hear."
That sentiment changed as the seats filled up shortly after 7 p.m. Whether or not the boos got into his head is impossible to tell, but his 0-for-5 night hinted that it could have had an effect.
In a crucial at-bat in the top of the third, Ortiz stepped to the plate with two runners on and nobody out. Dustin Pedroia had homered to lead off the inning. Joba Chamberlain had thrown 18 pitches that inning and had nothing to show for it. Had Ortiz been patient and allowed Chamberlain to continue his wildness, the inning could have been catastrophic for the Yankees.
Instead, Ortiz swung off his back foot at the first pitch, grounding into a double play. Three pitches later, Chamberlain and the Yankees were out of the inning relatively unscathed.
For that, the Yankee fans might have been cheering Ortiz.
“I’m not comfortable with [the booing]," Ortiz told the Herald. "I can handle it."
Manager Terry Francona said that despite Ortiz's subdued demeanor, his designated hitter is feeling fine.
“I haven’t noticed him being any different than he has in the past,’’ Francona told the Globe. “I see him handling things very well. I can’t see inside him, to be honest with you.’’
Though Ortiz might have the vote of confidence from his manager, his own confidence at the plate appears to be dwindling — quickly. Ortiz has just one hit in August, going hitless in his last 16 at-bats. He is now just four at-bats shy of matching his career-high of 20 consecutive at-bats without a hit, set in September of 1999.
Ortiz is reportedly set to address the media on Saturday alongside Michael Weiner of the players' union regarding the failed test from 2003. That could lift some proverbial weight off Ortiz's shoulders.
"I'm gonna let you guys know what I got. Period," he told reporters after the game.
But given the recent slide, the relative wealth of bats available for the middle of the order and the distraction of playing in New York, Ortiz may find some shelter in the Red Sox' dugout this weekend, safe from the boos of the fans and, more importantly at this point, the pitches of the Yankees.
For both Ortiz and the Red Sox, it may not be the worst thing.
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