Terry Francona has some important decisions to make this weekend regarding whether to play David Ortiz against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, where the Red Sox will lose the designated hitter spot during the upcoming three-game interleague series.
Does he play Ortiz at first base for one or more games in the hopes that the slugger will continue to show signs of coming out of his season-long slump? (Over the last last five games, Ortiz is hitting .375 with three homers and a .938 slugging percentage?) Or does he leave Papi on the bench (in favor of Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell) and risk the slugger cooling off?
“We’re trying to win games,” Francona said earlier this week, before Ortiz homered twice in three games against the Yankees. “We want to put our best hitters, our best defense [on the field]. What do you do with Youk? We’ve got a guy that’s won the Gold Glove that I would have a hard time saying, ‘Well, we’re not going to play our Gold Glove first baseman because I wanted to take David’s mind off of his struggles.’ That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Francona didn’t tip his hand as to what he might do, but there’s the possibility he could play Ortiz at first for a game or two and move Youkilis to third, giving Lowell, who is coming off offseason hip surgery, a rest.
It’s worth noting that the Phillies will start a righthander tonight (Joe Blanton) and a pair of lefties (Antonio Bastardo and J.A. Happ) over the weekend. Ortiz is hitting 25 points lower against lefties in his career than righties, though he actually has a higher average against lefties this season and homered last night off of one of the best southpaws in the game, CC Sabathia.
Ortiz has never faced Bastardo or Happ, but he has decent career numbers against Blanton: two homers and a .300 average in 20 at-bats.
What do you think the Sox should do? Check out the Globe 10.0 clip above for the opinions of the Globe’s Bob Ryan and Nick Cafardo (recorded before Ortiz homered last night) and share your thoughts in the comments section and the survey below.