David Ortiz Slugging Earlier, More Often This Season Thanks to Balanced Lineup, Confidence

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David Ortiz Slugging Earlier, More Often This Season Thanks to Balanced Lineup, Confidence What a first three months it's been for David Ortiz.

Big Papi usually breaks out of the gate a little behind everyone else, but this time around, the Red Sox' designated hitter is pounding baseballs at an extraordinary rate.

Let's open up this week's mailbag, starting with the big slugger.

What is different about David Ortiz in 2011?
–Kyle, Toronto

He has been great and I think the biggest thing is how he started. The past two seasons he started poorly and seemed to have it snowball on him a tad. It took until June for him to figure it out in both 2009 and 2010. This year, he took more at-bats and worked very hard during spring training to avoid having it happen again. The two home runs he hit in the first series against Texas were huge and helped his confidence right out of the gate. I also believe there are better hitters in the lineup around him on a regular basis. So he is getting better pitches to hit and can?t be pitched around as often as last year.

Jacoby Ellsbury has been terrific. What changes has he made?
–Tom, Boston

I think the biggest thing for him has been health. Last year he was held to just 18 games due to the rib situation and was never right. I also think that he came into this season on a mission. He really took it to heart that some questioned his passion and ability to play hurt. I think he was affected by some of the things said last year and used it as motivation coming into this season. He has been fun to watch and has consistently been the guy who gets on base early in games. He is doing all you could ask from a leadoff man.

The Red Sox offense has been amazing. Is this what we can expect now the rest of the way?
–Jack, Worcester, Mass.

I think on this trip, we are seeing what we expected to see when the Red Sox put this roster together in the winter. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford — along with a healthy lineup — are not just beating teams, but pummeling them early and often with runs. The Toronto series was amazing and hopefully now that the weather has warmed up and Crawford is hitting, more of the same can be expected. You just have to hope they stay healthy.

After sweeping the Yankees and seeing them last weekend, what do you think of the Bronx Bombers?
–Stacy, Arizona

Since we left New York, things actually got worse for the Yankees with Derek Jeter going on the DL and Russell Martin?s back issues came back again. I think the Yankees are going through what the Red Sox did 2010 with injuries. You put your team together and then piece by piece these injuries crop up and change the complexion of your team instantly. I thought the bullpen was going to be one of their strengths but they now seem to be losing games well before Mariano Rivera gets a shot. Bartolo Colon who was a real surprise for them and he just went on the DL. Freddy Garcia was less than impressive against the Sox. There are many holes now for them and it makes you wonder cautiously if the Rays are now the team that may take the wild card. Stay tuned and never count out the Yankees or what they might do at or around the trade deadline.

Have you been able to watch the Bruins postseason run?
–Smitty, NYC

Yes. For the most part, our games have not gone head-to-head. It's killing me that I won't be able to watch Game 7 on Wednesday night. I have been a big Bruins fan since I was a kid and was a season ticket holder from 1987-91 while at Northeastern. Go B?s!

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