Papi pressing for power

Papi pressing for power

ST. PETERSBURG -- After going homerless in April, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz began May by going 0-for-4 on Friday night.

The man known as Big Papi is hitting .220 and is not happy about it. The long-ball drought has reached 91 at-bats.

Both before and after Friday night's contest, Ortiz declined opportunities to speak with the media. But Julio Lugo, one of Ortiz's closest friends on the team, spoke of the frustration engulfing the left-handed hitter.

"He's taking it hard," said Lugo. "When you're a star, and you know you can hit, and things don't happen like you want, you're going to get mad, and you're supposed to get mad, because you're supposed to do all those things. I don't expect him to be happy."

Expect Red Sox manager Terry Francona to insert Ortiz right back into the familiar three-hole in the lineup for Saturday's game.

"I guess I could always consider doing what I think is in our team's best interest," said Francona. "I think it does more harm than good. We've had pretty much a set lineup. Three days ago, when we won 11 out of 12, nobody [suggested moving Ortiz from the third spot]. I don't know that's the right thing to do. I think the right thing to do is to get everybody going on all cylinders, and then we have a chance to do what we're supposed to do."

The goose-egg in the home run category is something Francona feels has to be weighing on Ortiz, at least somewhat.

"I'm sure he gets reminded about it, so I don't want to be the one adding to that," Francona said. "I firmly believe if he has really good at-bats, I think when you look up at the end, he'll be sitting where he's supposed to be.

"That's why at the beginning of the year you hear me talk so much about getting the firsts out of the way. That can kind of cloud up things. I just want them to get into the grind and just play as good as you can play and not try to get things out of the way."

Once Ortiz does get his power stroke in full force, the Red Sox will likely ride the wave.

"He'll get going," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "It's just a matter of time."

"David is the heart of the team," said Lugo. "Without him, it's going to be hard for us to get going. I don't have any doubt in my mind or anybody's mind that he's going to come through. He's just going through a hard time right now, but you know what, he hasn't forgotten to hit or forgotten how to play baseball. He's right there. One click -- he's just missing his pitches. Just a little adjustment, he's going to be OK."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (2-1, 1.86 ERA)
The ageless knuckleballer threw fabulous ball for seven innings on Monday, his only blemishes being four walks and a single to Victor Martinez, but Wakefield didn't factor into the decision because Cliff Lee was equally ironclad for the Indians. Wakefield has given up just three runs in his last 23 innings. He'll face the Rays for the first time this season. In 2008, he went 0-3 in four starts against Tampa Bay, most recently in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series (five runs on six hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings).

TB: RHP Jeff Niemann (2-2, 4.43 ERA)
Niemann flirted with danger for much of his Monday outing in Minnesota, yet was able to use his breaking ball to get out of some tough situations, something he is becoming more comfortable with each start. Against the Twins, he allowed just one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out four, but he also walked four batters. The 6-foot-9 right-hander needs to keep the ball in the park, having allowed at least one home run in each of his first six Major League starts, including all four this year. Only Minnesota's Kevin Slowey (eight) has a longer streak among active players.

The Red Sox are 1-4 against the Rays this season, and 12-18 dating back to last season (including the postseason). ... Dustin Pedroia has five games this season with three hits or more. ... Kevin Youkilis is hitting .405 with a .515 on-base percentage.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO 680, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Red Sox (Brad Penny, 2-0, 8.66) at Rays (James Shields, 2-2, 3.74), 1:38 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 1-2, 5.40) at Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 1-0, 3.13), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 2-2, 7.22) at Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 2-0, 5.40), 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.