Red Sox Can Use David Ortiz’s Absence to Their Advantage


Red Sox Can Use David Ortiz's Absence to Their Advantage When David Ortiz was essentially forced from the lineup for the bulk of a nine-game run through National League parks, it was seen as an incredible disadvantage to the Red Sox, who build their lineup around Ortiz's position as much or more than any other team in the game.

Not that you ever want to play a game without such a potent bat, but the Red Sox can use Ortiz's newest absence to their advantage.

Ortiz will miss all three games of a series in Baltimore beginning Monday night due to a suspension. Unlike in interleague play, however, his position remains. That gives manager Terry Francona a rare opportunity to handle his roster in a way that can provide other players valuable rest.

Francona has installed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury into the DH spot for the opener Monday. Ellsbury, coming off a season in which he was limited to 18 games due to rib injuries, has played in 92 of the team's first 93 games this year, including 88 in a starting role. Ellsbury was one of a handful of players who saw action in all 16 innings last night in Tampa Bay, tracking down nine balls in center.

As the team nears a stretch in which it will play 20 games in 20 days (July 22-August 10), it is a perfect time to allow some players to recharge. Ellsbury, who went 0-for-8 in the marathon win, should benefit from a lighter night.

Kevin Youkilis, bothered by various ailments throughout much of the first half of the year, could get a start at DH during the series with Yamaico Navarro playing third. Perhaps Navarro plays shortstop and Marco Scutaro moves to second for a game to spell Dustin Pedroia, who has started every game since having his right knee scoped June 9. Maybe Adrian Gonzalez gets a day as a DH for the first time in his career; Youkilis can move to first and Navarro can step into the hot corner.

The possibilities abound, and Francona has to appreciate that, even if it means having his top home run hitter on the sidelines for three games. He can mix and match and give players' legs a tiny rest, something that may seem small now but could be the difference in that one big play in one big game down the stretch.

Many other teams have adopted this rotating DH model in recent years, mostly out of necessity. Simply put, there aren't many David Ortizes out there. However, several seem to enjoy the merits of having a spot where position players can get a day off from defense while still keeping their bats in the lineup.

Because of Ortiz, the Red Sox do not have to think in that way. And for that reason, they are overjoyed. Francona stresses that fact often. Ortiz remains, at 35, one of the more fearful hitters in the league. However, for three games in July, Boston can turn his absence into a positive.

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