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Ortiz gets weekend off


Ortiz gets weekend off
SEATTLE - Slumping slugger David Ortiz will not play again until the Red Sox return to Boston on Tuesday, in the hopes that a mental break helps him escape the worst slump of his career.

The team made the decision yesterday to sit Ortiz for the entire weekend series vs. the Mariners rather than send him back out when he clearly is at a low point mentally. Ortiz went 0-for-7 for the first time in his career Thursday against the Angels and stranded a team-record-tying 12 runners on base, grounding weakly to the catcher with the bases loaded in the 12th inning of a 5-4 loss.

``Sometimes stepping back can help,'' manager Terry Francona said. ``Maybe I'm too late in doing this. I hope not. I just think he needs to take a deep breath. Even when he's struggling, we love his presence. This is the time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and help us in the long run.''

Ortiz' teammates rallied to his defense yesterday, with captain Jason Varitek making it clear they're behind him while hoping the fans are, too.

``People that support this team need to take a step back and allow him to become himself again,'' Varitek said. ``He hasn't gotten it yet, but once he gets it, he's going to even out into who he is. He's in a different place right now. He needs to continue to understand that we're behind him, and hopefully a nation stays behind him.''

Ortiz is hitting .208 with no home runs and 15 RBI, and the strain clearly is getting to him. He declined through a Red Sox spokesman to address the media yesterday, but his hangdog body language as he sat at his locker with his head bowed painted the portrait of a man struggling to make sense of why he can't play up to his standards.

``The fact that he cares so much makes it almost worse,'' third baseman Mike Lowell said. ``You can see he's trying. We all still have confidence in David. I don't buy the bat speed (argument). I don't buy the Manny deal. I just think maybe he's not seeing the ball and that triggers other things. I think he just needs a day where he squares the ball up three or four times, and it just snowballs from there.''

Ortiz' teammates know what he's going through, because they've all been there to a degree themselves. Lowell's lost 2005 season had the pundits writing him off, but he rebounded to post a strong 2006 before being named World Series MVP in 2007.

He saw the other side of the tunnel. Lowell was asked if he can let Ortiz know it's possible to come out on the other side.

``It's easy to say it, but when you're going through it, the problem is so many people care about David, he's almost being pulled in a million different directions,'' Lowell said. ``Now he's off today. When he's back in the lineup, he should treat it like the season starts that day. If he goes 0-for-4, that's fine. People go 0-for-4 on Opening Day all the time. Just take it like that. If you stare at the numbers, you'll never win.''

His teammates believe he'll get there, but they know what he's going through right now isn't easy. Maybe this break is just what he needs.

``There's a huge human element to it,'' Varitek said. ``He's got a track record that's pretty good. We've got to weather the storm. It's taxing as a player.

``His teammates are all on the bench wanting something good to happen for him. This team is way better with him. Way better. We're in a competitive division, but we'll be even better when he's good again.''

- jtomase@bostonherald.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 16, 2009

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