Notes: Ortiz hoping Bronx will wake bat

Notes: Ortiz hoping Bronx will wake up bat

NEW YORK -- Even when he is mired in a 1-for-20 slump, as was the case entering this three-game showdown at Yankee Stadium, David Ortiz remains a focal point in the Bronx, where he has done some of the most prolific bashing of his career.

The headline on the back page of Tuesday's New York Post said, "With BoSox in Bronx, Yankees must ... DROP PAPI!"

That flashy tease was the subject of a column that implored the Yankees to dust Ortiz so he doesn't feel so comfortable at the plate.

Ortiz's reaction? He's not feeling so comfortable these days, anyway.

"I heard about it, but ... it's all a bunch of [garbage]," Ortiz said. "I'm hitting .250. I mean, I don't hit everything. Somebody's doing something right."

How close is Ortiz to recapturing the stroke that has turned him into one of the elite sluggers in the game?

"A hundred miles away," quipped Ortiz. "No, it's just making pitches, man. I might see a pitch tonight, and [miss it]. Then I'll pay for it later on. I'll make adjustments. I've got 4 1/2 months to deal with it. It's all good."

For as Red Sox manager Terry Francona noted, the one hit Ortiz did have during that 1-for-20 was a game-breaking, three-run double against the Orioles.

And just before the slump started, Ortiz drilled a mammoth home run through the wind against Yankees left-hander Mike Myers.

Ortiz entered the night hitting .256 with 11 homers and 28 RBIs. The batting average was the only thing significantly lower than normal.

"I actually think he's handled it really well," said Francona. "I don't think he likes it. I just think he got caught in between a little bit. Uncharacteristically, he swung at some offspeed pitches. He had a couple of pitches to hit the other day and he fouled them back. All hitters go through it. The good news is we won those games, so that's really good for us."

Until he finds his groove, Ortiz will do plenty of searching, be it by watching video or taking extra batting practice.

"I'm very mechanical," Ortiz said. "My swing is very mechanical. So if I'm not where I like to be, I'm not going to get it. Simple as that. I have a whole bunch of stuff that I need to put together to hit."

Holtz back in bigs: A day after optioning Manny Delcarmen to Triple-A, the Red Sox filled the vacant spot on the roster by purchasing the contract of left-hander Mike Holtz from Pawtucket. It was a day to savor for Holtz, who was back in the Major Leagues for the first time since 2002.

Holtz underwent surgery in 2003 to remove bone chips from his left elbow in 2003. He spent the '04 season in the Tampa Bay farm system before pitching in Japan last year.

"I went to Japan last year, I was coming off surgery. I worked back from that and got healthy and wanted to give it one more shot this year and see how things went," said Holtz. "I had a pretty good spring. Fortunately, things worked out."

Holtz has 350 games of Major League experience under his belt, posting a 16-20 record and a 4.68 ERA. Before coming to the Red Sox, Holtz pitched for the Angels, A's and Padres. This season at Pawtucket, he posted a 1.69 ERA in 11 relief appearances.

The Red Sox don't have any lefties in their bullpen, but former closer Keith Foulke has held lefties to a .226 average.

"Holtz was really throwing the ball well in Triple-A," said Francona. "He's got Major League experience. He's left-handed. I think it will be a little bit easier to at least have him up throwing. If we're down a couple and we want to stay away from Foulke and they've got lefties coming up, Holtz is a real good option. If we want him to face a hitter, he can. Again, it makes it a little bit easier to get Foulke into a game without getting him up two or three times."

Mohr instead of Trot: Why did Francona elect to start Dustan Mohr (0-for-10, five strikeouts lifetime against Randy Johnson) instead of left-handed hitting Trot Nixon?

"With Trot, I just thought this is a guy that, maybe it's better to let the righty face him," Francona said. "We'll have Trot on the bench ready to hit, I think that will help us also."

Mohr made the move look like a good one by raking a single to left in his first at-bat.

In other outfield developments, Wily Mo Pena played right field with Mohr starting in center. During Boston's recently completed homestand, Pena started every game in center field. However, Pena had never played in Yankee Stadium before, so Francona elected to give him the position with less ground to cover.

Flaherty makes an appearance: John Flaherty, who started and ended his career with the Red Sox, was in the Boston clubhouse before the game doing prep work as a broadcaster for the YES Network. Flaherty entered Spring Training as the favorite to be Boston's backup catcher. However, he elected to retire on March 7, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

Flaherty insists that the challenge of catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball did not drive his decision to call it quits.

"For me, it was family first," said Flaherty. "I think I knew when the Yankees didn't want me back that I probably didn't want to play anymore. But then the Red Sox called and I had to give it a shot."

Flaherty does admit that he has new respect for what it takes to catch a knuckleball.

"I told [Doug Mirabelli] that I have a lot more respect for him now than I did the last couple of years," Flaherty said. "I felt bad for Josh [Bard] watching what he was going through. It's a tough situation for a catcher, you can be a good catcher and look bad and be embarrassed. Like I said, it's greater appreciation for Doug Mirabelli now."

Coming up: Ace Curt Schilling (5-1, 3.02 ERA) faces Mike Mussina (5-1, 2.35 ERA) on Wednesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.