David Ortiz and Mike Lowell experienced an awkward pinch-hitting moment five years ago. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Mike Lowell on pinch-hitting for David Ortiz: 'I felt terrible for him'

Rob Bradford
June 11, 2015 - 8:57 am

BALTIMORE -- It was just a seventh inning at-bat in an April 20 game five years ago. But the moment is routinely remembered, particularly these days. The Red Sox' matchup in Toronto against the Blue Jays was memorable because it marked the last time David Ortiz was pinch-hit for in a significant spot. It's certainly something the man who subbed in for him, Mike Lowell, hasn't forgotten. "I felt terrible for him. I wasn'€™t delighted," the former Red Sox third baseman by phone Thursday afternoon. "I was the type of person who loved to hit. I loved to get in there. But that was really one moment in my career I preferred not hitting." At the time, Ortiz was hitting just .146 (6-for-41) through 11 games, and 1-for-9 vs. lefties. Meanwhile, then-Red Sox manager Terry Francona was attempting to find at-bats for Lowell, who had gone 4-for-12 in limited duty in his role sharing time with third baseman Adrian Beltre and Ortiz. As Lowell remembered it, the awkwardness of the moment wasn't hard to find. "The first thing I remember is thinking I was hoping this wouldn'€™t happen, not because I wanted anyone to make an out in front of me, but because, first, nobody likes to be pinch-hit for, and secondly, you don'€™t want to be the person who goes in for the other person, especially in the situation I was in," he said. "First, he is a very good friend of mine, and, two, you feel for him because you knew he was struggling and you know he'€™s thinking how is he going to get out of this and start hitting lefties if he doesn'€™t face lefties anymore. "It felt like we were going down a weird road because I wasn'€™t playing. How much are you gaining? I don'€™t know. But I do think you could be really demoralizing the hitter being pinch-hit for if you expect to lean on him during the season. "Did I want to do something well? Yes. Did it work out? I guess in the short-term because I got on base. But I didn'€™t think we won in the long range of setting up a pattern or this was going to help David." Ortiz slowly walked back to the Red Sox dugout after being called back, telling WEEI.com in the days that followed, "It was just embarrassing." "I don'€™t know how spur of the moment it was from Tito'€™s standpoint. I just knew that they told me to get ready," Lowell said. "When you'€™re on the bench and they tell you to get ready, you'€™re not really sure although you have an idea. At first I didn'€™t know it was for David. Two things happen: first, you have to do your job and get ready. But when they tell you it'€™s for David you'€™re like, '€˜Oh, man.'€™ It'€™s not like David is going to play the next day and hit seventh. This is a guy who is going to hit in the middle of the lineup. Not only was it awkward, but it was hard to justify that this was a really good move going forward for the rest of the year. "So put yourself in my shoes. He'€™s walking back and I'€™m walking up and I'€™m supposed to be excited to hit. If you think you'€™re going to be competitive in the season and one of your main pieces walks back with his head down, almost like someone shot his dog. That'€™s not a good feeling for anybody." It's unclear if Red Sox manager John Farrell will go down the same road with Ortiz, particularly without the option off the bench Francona had with Lowell. (For analysis of that scenario, click here.) Lowell, who will continue his work on the MLB Network with an appearance Sunday, has some thoughts on what might happen. "I think you have to take a couple of things," he said. "First, you have to have a conversation with the hitter himself. Where'€™s he'€™s at? Some hitters I think will be more honest than you think. It'€™s much different having an interview with the media than having an conversation with your hitting coach or your manager. A lot more truth can come out of that. I don'€™t think David or anyone in his position would say, '€˜Yeah, I really don'€™t think I'€™m hitting guys well.'€™ I really believe he thinks he'€™s always going to come out of it. "The way I would go about it is kind of what John Farrell is doing. He'€™s going to get off days anyways, so why not make it against a lefty who is a tough matchup. I would pick and choose his off days around that. If he'€™s swinging a good bat, I don'€™t care, lefty or righty, I leave him in. But I don'€™t think I could make the perfect decision because I'€™m not in that clubhouse every day. I think you learn a lot if you'€™re in the clubhouse every day."