Red Sox focus on helping Ortiz rebound

Boston focuses on boosting Ortiz

BOSTON -- So what happened after David Ortiz at last snapped his power drought with his first home run of the season on Wednesday night? Unfortunately for Ortiz and the Red Sox, the left-handed masher has gone right back into the throes of a deep slump.

Ortiz has just one hit in his past 16 at-bats, capped by Sunday's 0-for-5 performance that left his average for the season at .195.

After Ortiz went 0-for-7 and left 12 men on base in a 12-inning loss against the Angels on May 14, manager Terry Francona gave the slugger a three-day break in Seattle to clear his head.

Ortiz said after Sunday's game that he doesn't want or need a break at this point in time.

"No," said Ortiz. "Not again. I think I got figured out what I need. That's it. I've got to keep on playing. No more breaks. Ride or die from now on."

With a day game looming in Minnesota on Monday against left-hander Francisco Liriano, is there a chance Francona will spell Ortiz at least for a game?

"To be really honest, I haven't looked at the Minnesota stuff," Francona said. "I haven't looked at it enough. I need to get on the plane with [bench coach Brad Mills] and sit down and look at some things. We've got guys that are due some rest -- turf, early game, day game [after travel Sunday night]. I'll gather my thoughts in the next couple of hours on some things."

How about moving Ortiz -- Boston's No. 3 hitter -- lower in the order?

"It's something we're going to discuss," said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. "We'll probably talk about it on the flight. We want to do what's best not only for David, but what's best for the team. He's got to be a big part of our offense. By no means do I feel like he's at the end of his rope. He's got a lot of baseball left in him and he's got a lot of confidence in him. He's one of our main guys. We've got to get him going."

Ortiz hasn't batted anywhere other than third for the Red Sox since May of 2005. A change, if it happens, would be significant.

But Ortiz isn't thinking about any of that right now. He remains determined to get in a groove. And unlike a week ago, when the slugger clearly seemed despondent over his struggles, he was carrying himself with confidence on Sunday afternoon, despite the lack of results.

"I'm feeling good. My balance is good. I'm seeing the ball," Ortiz said. "I am what I am. I like what I am. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm taking good swings. There's nothing much you can do about it. Sometimes you put a good swing on the ball, and it won't go nowhere."

In 154 at-bats this season, Ortiz has one homer, 18 RBIs and 41 strikeouts. His slugging percentage is .299.

"He's frustrated," Francona said. "From the team perspective, it's certainly better to talk about it after a win. But big picture, we've got to get him going. It's been tough for him."

Nobody feels for Ortiz more than Magadan, who continues to work long hours with the DH.

"I think his mechanics look very good in his pregame work. I think in the game, he gets to a point where he gets a little late in getting ready and his mechanics kind of fall apart a little bit," Magadan said. "Maybe it's a matter of just continuing the repetition and the pregame stuff so when the game starts, he's not thinking about what he's working on so much and he can just react where the baseball is. Like I said, that's going to happen. Hopefully for him, it's going to be sooner than later."

Ortiz's teammates remain supportive.

"I wish I knew the special formula," said third baseman Mike Lowell. "I think we're at a point where we all feel for him. We're all rooting for him immensely. He's scuffling right now. We're waiting for that day he gets out of it. He's a big part of our lineup. That three-hole hitter is pretty important."

Which only begs the question of how much longer Francona will keep Ortiz in that spot.

Wherever Ortiz hits, there remains confidence throughout the clubhouse that he will find a way to get going again.

"I don't believe the six years he was here [before 2009] were all a fluke and now he's totally lost it," Lowell said. "I refuse to believe that. He's going to need two or three games where he gets good wood and puts three at-bats together, and maybe he can just relax. There's a lot of pressure playing here. You've done a good job for so long, and now things aren't coming so easy for you. I think it's definitely more when than if."

Ortiz doesn't have the answers -- not yet anyway. But he's determined to stay strong mentally.

"Things happen, you know? They happen for a reason," Ortiz said. "What you can never do is just give up. You've got to keep fighting, man, keep fighting, keep on fighting. That's all I've got in me right now. Keep fighting.

"I am where I need to be right now mechanically. When you see the ball, all you can do is put a good swing on it, and after that you have no control over it."

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