BOSTON — Consider it a renaissance. Consider it a silver lining in a disappointing season for the Red Sox. Consider it a reminder that David Ortiz still can hit a baseball better than most humans, even those who throw with their left arm.
Ortiz has been much better against left-handers of late, with the latest example coming Friday night, when the 39-year-old worked an 11-pitch walk against southpaw Jake McGee in the seventh inning to pave the way for Mike Napoli’s go-ahead home run in the Boston Red Sox’s 7-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
“His front foot was getting to the ground much better, and he’s staying on pitches and using the whole field better,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Ortiz’s noticeable improvement after Friday’s victory. “Against lefties, you see him let the ball travel a little bit deeper in the zone. That was the case, particularly in that at-bat.”
Ortiz entered Saturday batting .379 (11-for-29) with three homers against left-handers since July 1. He opened the season hitting .114 (9-for-79) with no homers versus lefties through June 30. Clearly, something clicked for Ortiz, who’s hitting .245 with 20 homers, 58 RBIs and an .804 OPS overall.
“I’m seeing the ball better now. I’m not trying to pull the ball much,” Ortiz said. “The beginning of the season, in my mind, velocity was an issue — seeing how left-handed pitchers are increasing their velocity, and pretty much all of them start behind you. In your head, you feel like you’ve got to cheat to hit it. And when they see you doing that, they go the opposite direction.
“At some point, I was like, you know what? I’m just going to trust my hands and let things happen like I used to do it.”
The new approach has worked.
“I’m back,” Ortiz said.
He sure is.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images