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Monday, May 4, 2009
Francona not concerned about Ortiz


Posted by ESPN's Claire Smith

NEW YORK -- Terry Francona will not give up on David Ortiz.

The Boston Red Sox manager not only made that clear during an interview session with the media prior to his team's scheduled game at Yankee Stadium Monday, he also made a point of saying telling that exact same thing to the slumping designated hitter during a meeting earlier in the day.

"I spent the last five years patting him on the back," Francona said of the All-Star slugger who helped lead the Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles. "Now, when he needs a little help, I don't want to be the one to abandon him."

Francona said he won't lose patience and shrugs off suggestions that he drop Ortiz in the order. Yes, the DH had a horrible April (.230, zero home runs, 12 RBIs, 22 strikeouts).

"But giving up on him, running away from him is not the answer he needs," the manager said.

Ortiz was 0-for-3 Sunday in a loss at Tampa. He has gone 110 at-bats without a homer -- 96 this season -- his longest drought since a 128-at-bat stretch from April 17-July 6, 2002.

Hours before the game, Ortiz sat at his cubicle in the spacious visitors' clubhouse at the new stadium, ear buds in place, lost in his own thoughts. At least for that moment, he let his T-shirt do the speaking. In bold, black letters set against a Red Sox-red background, the back of his shirt read:

"It's how you finish."

Which way to the visitors' clubhouse?

Francona took a quick tour of the new ballpark, seeing as much as early-afternoon rains would allow.

His impressions? "It's beautiful," he said, "but we're all routine-oriented. I like to know where I am, where I am going."

On Day 1, he needed an escort to find the visitors' clubhouse, a far cry from the old ballpark, which he and most veterans of the game came to know like the backs of their gloves.

"We all get into that routine -- there's a comfort level there, I don't have that, yet, because we don't know where we're going," he said.

Setback for Kotsay

Mark Kotsay, on the disabled list since April 4 while recovering from back surgery, left a rehab start with Class AAA Pawtucket Sunday with mild tightness in his calf.

"He hit a ground ball in his second at-bat and, trying to shift into gear, he felt it," Francona said. "It's a setback. He's a little frustrated. He didn't do it like he did in Florida, which is good news."

Joba: Amenities hard to compute

Over in the home clubhouse, Joba Chamberlain sat at his cubicle contemplating just what took him by surprise the most in the $1.5 billion park.

"It has to be the laptops on the wall of your locker," he said. "I've seen a lot of things, but never a laptop on a wall like that."

The swimming pools (two) are a close second, Chamberlain admitted. "Pretty cool," he said -- and very useful, too, apparently.

"I get in there and have used the 'swim ex' thing, where you can work on your legs and full body strength," he said. "You can make the current as strong as you want when you work out."

Reggie's view

Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, a special assistant to Yankees ownership, is also impressed with the new confines. But, he makes it clear, his perspective is a little different than that of youngster like Chamberlain.

Though he agrees that he was most taken aback by the laptops, too, he says, "I'm from a different era. I didn't come to the ballpark thinking about computers. I came thinking, 'How am I going to get some hits' ... 'who's the starting pitcher I have to face tonight?'

"I admit that it's wonderful, that everything here was done in first-class fashion. But I didn't have this, and I came out OK. This doesn't make you play better. Money doesn't make you play better. It allows you to live better. You play better because of you. And we want 'you,' not what you appear to be, not what you are in the weight room, the pool, the restaurant. It's about what you have on the field."

Pettitte: Joyless in Seattle

Andy Pettitte has seen them come, seen them go.

Ballparks, that is. "I think I've been in all the ones up and running, right now, except for the new Mets park," the lefthander said. "Hopefully I will get to see that this summer."

The stadium Pettitte misses the least might surprise.

"The Kingdome," he said, flatly. "I just have bad memories of that place. I had a couple bad games there, the lighting wasn't real good. And that's where we lost the playoffs in 1995."

Claire Smith is a news editor for ESPN whose primary responsibility is baseball, which she previously covered for the NY Times and Philadelphia Inquirer.