David Ortiz

Will John Farrell pinch-hit for David Ortiz? He says no

Rob Bradford
June 11, 2015 - 7:34 am

BALTIMORE -- While much was made of John Farrell sitting David Ortiz against Orioles lefty starter Wei-Yen Chen Wednesday night, that's not really where the true drama may reside. The question is now this: will the Red Sox manager pinch-hit for Ortiz? (Prior to Thursday night's game, Farrell said he would not be pinch-hitting for Ortiz. To read his comments, click here.) The Red Sox designated hitter hasn't been pinch-hit for in a meaningful spot since April 20, 2010, when then-manager Terry Francona subbed in Mike Lowell against lefty Darren Oliver. At the time, Ortiz was hitting just .146 (6-for-41) through 11 games, and 1-for-9 vs. lefties. Meanwhile, 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. "I felt terrible for him," Lowell said by phone Thursday afternoon. "I wasn'€™t delighted. 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." (For more comments from Lowell on the situation, click here.) Lowell would draw a walk off Oliver, and Ortiz went on to hit a home run in his next at-bat, three days later. "It was just embarrassing, getting pinch-hit for," Ortiz told WEEI.com after the incident. "I understand. I'€™m not swinging the bat good, with a lefty and whatever. I'€™ve got to come through and do my thing and get that out of people'€™s heads. When I'€™m swinging the bat good that'€™s not going to happen. Basically it was a wake-up call to say, 'You better start hitting or you'€™re going to get pinch-hit for.' "You saw my reaction. I just came back tot he dugout. Of course, I was embarrassed, but I took it like a man. It wasn'€™t Tito'€™s fault that I was pinch-hit for. It was my fault because I'€™m not hitting. I know it'€™s not going to get me any confidence, but it'€™s telling me to work on your (stuff) and start hitting." This scenario, however, might be different. There could very well be the opportunity to make a case for subbing in for Ortiz against the Orioles Thursday night, with lefties Zach Britton and T.J. McFarland waiting once again. (The Red Sox are fortunate that lefty reliever Brian Matusz -- a pitcher Ortiz is 3-for-26 against -- is still serving an eight-game suspension for using a foreign substance on the ball.) Farrell cited Britton's presence as the reason he didn't pinch-hit Ortiz in the ninth inning of his team's 5-2 loss to the O's, Wednesday night. But the way the Red Sox roster is currently constructed, there is no substitute that remotely approaches the threat Lowell provided. Assuming the Red Sox go with their usual lineup against righty starters, with right-hander Chris Tillman on the mound in the series finale, that would leave Rusney Castillo and Jeff Bianchi (righty hitters), Sandy Leon or Blake Swihart (switch-hitters), and Alejandro De Aza (lefy) as pinch-hitting options. It's hard to imagine, even with Ortiz's current struggles against left-handers, a move being made with one of those options. If the Red Sox are serious about subbing in against lefties for Ortiz (or even Pablo Sandoval) late in games, then they might want to explore putting Allen Craig back on the 40-man roster and giving him the call. Craig would seem to serve more of a purpose than Bianchi, and is hitting .391 against lefties with Triple-A Pawtucket. It would leave the Sox with just Brock Holt as the only substitute middle infielder, but Craig could also start finding some time in left field against left-handed starters instead of the Sox running out the left-hitting Holt (who has been hitting lefties at a .324 clip) with Hanley Ramirez serving as designated hitter. The playing time fit for Craig once again is not perfect, especially considering Holt's success against southpaws. But if they are going to go down this road with Ortiz against lefties, it would fit better than what the Sox have now. It's been more than five years since we went down this road, but after Wednesday's maneuvers it's something that has re-entered into the conversation.