Redsox.com's Ian Browne spoke with David Ortiz after the Boston Red Sox thumped the Baltimore Orioles 12-1 at Fenway Park in the annual Patriots' Day matinee game, and Ortiz said he may have finally found what was causing his abysmal start to the 2009 season.
Prior to Monday's game, Ortiz was batting .170 with just one extra-base hit and four RBI. After Monday's 2-for-4, two-RBI performance, he is still hitting only .196, but there were some encouraging signs for Red Sox fans.
For one, Ortiz's double in the first inning was to deep left field and off the Green Monster. Big Papi had shown an inability to drive the ball anywhere, let alone to the opposite field.
Ortiz attributed Monday's eruption of pop to a discovery in his swing by Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan that his bat was swinging well, but swinging late.
"Our hitting coach, Magadan, [Sunday], before my last at-bat, he showed me something that we both agreed on," Ortiz told Browne. "That's why that guy was throwing 88 and throwing a fastball by me. I was wondering why because I was hitting the ball good. I was feeling good. There was one at-bat I was taking good swings and I wasn't putting the ball in play and it was because I was late."
Pundits who had been harping on Ortiz's waning bat speed and inability to hit fastballs under 90 MPH would be hard-pressed to find a good explanation for his sudden ability to drive the ball the other way, and to do it against 90-plus MPH pitches.
As part of the Red Sox' seven-run seventh inning, Ortiz stepped to the plate and delivered a deep drive to center field that resulted in a triple. After getting only one extra-base hit through his first 12 games, Ortiz had two on Monday.
Hopefully for Red Sox Nation, Magadan has discovered the missing piece to Ortiz's mechanics at the plate. Since Magadan's discovery coincided with Monday's big day for Ortiz, I'll believe them and sit back, anticipating a power breakthrough.
If Ortiz doesn't ultimately turn it around, the Red Sox will get desperate for power in the middle of the lineup. A No. 3 hitter simply can't be a marginal hitter, let alone an automatic out.
For now, that need rests on the shoulders of Big Papi, and he believes he's finally starting to put it together.
"If you as a hitter slow down at 88 [MPH], that means you have to go," Ortiz said. "But it's crazy after you get beat by 88 and then you can hit 94. That means that it's not that you have to go but you have to put yourself together and keep working. It's a long season."