SOX ON DECK: Papi hits third homer in third game

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2008

Even though the rehabbing David Ortiz belted his third home run in three games on Saturday night, Pawtucket Red Sox Manager Ron Johnson was even more impressed when Boston’s D.H. swung and missed — and even struck out.

“When he struck out (in the fifth inning), he had vicious hacks,” Johnson said after the Toledo Mud Hens beat the PawSox, 13-5. “There was no restraint at all. I watched him come off the field and looked at him and he was like ‘It was nothing.’

“I had a cup-of-coffee career, but when you’re out there and if you have an injury that’s bothering your hands or legs, you’re going to be restricted with certain movements and you’re going to be able to see it. Watching him swing — and that’s all I try to do — and watching body language after the swing, as I would with any rehabber who comes down here with an injury, you can tell by a grimace or some type of wincing how he feels. I don’t see anything with him," Johnson said.

“In constantly talking to him,” continued Johnson, “he feels fine so that’s a really good sign. You don’t work on hitting the ball the other way if you’re trying to protect something.”

Ortiz has been sidelined since he partially tore the tendon sheath in his left wrist on a swing in a May 31 game at Baltimore.

In his first at-bat Saturday, against Toledo right-hander Chris Lambert, Ortiz lunged at a breaking pitch and fouled out to first baseman Derek Wathan.

Then, with one out in the third, Ortiz jumped on a 3-1, mid-thigh fastball and smoked it off the elevated billboard just to the right of the right-center field video board.

Take away the billboard and the ball would have sailed out of McCoy Stadium and into an adjacent parking out - well over 420 feet.

Ortiz struck out on a 3-2 breaking pitch by Lambert in the fifth. And against the first left-hander he faced in the series, Clay Rapada, he fanned on a checked-swing third strike.

But the strikeouts were the least of Johnson’s concerns.

“I think the real exciting part about it while watching him the last three days was his timing,” Johnson said. “If you watched from the third base coach’s box (most minor league managers coach third base) it looked like he was getting more and more in time with the average velocity fastballs.

“You got to see it on the ball he hit out tonight because watching the swing, the approach and the finish, and the typical David Ortiz fashion of after he hit it, he was very comfortable. That was good for me to see.”

Unfortunately, Pawtucket and Boston fans won’t get to see Ortiz hit Sunday in the fourth and final game of the series.

Even though Ortiz indicated he would play four games, he initially reserved the option to take the last day off which he will. But he will journey to Portland on Monday for a three-game rehab assignment with the Sea Dogs.