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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Updated: May 6, 3:12 AM ET
Francona understands Ortiz's struggles

By Gordon Edes

BOSTON -- David Ortiz walked out onto the field at Fenway Park shortly before 3 this afternoon for an early round of batting practice, the day after he whiffed twice and hit into two double plays to further inflame the debate over how long the Red Sox can continue to use their longtime DH.

For now, the Sox are not responding to the vox populi. Ortiz was back in the lineup Wednesday night as the team's designated hitter, batting sixth. Ortiz's presence in the lineup led to another session of what has become a daily exercise for Terry Francona, the manager explaining why he put Ortiz and his .149 batting average on his lineup card.

Francona had already been on the radio -- on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "The Dale & Holley Show" -- making a public case for sticking with Ortiz, even if Option No. 2, Mike Lowell, has hit safely in his last five at-bats (four doubles) and Option No. 3, Jeremy Hermida, smacked a tie-breaking, three-run double two batters after Ortiz rolled into a bases-loaded double play in the eighth.

One of the factors influencing Francona's decision, the manager said, was that Ortiz has the best numbers of any Sox player against Wednesday night's Angels' starter, Joel Pineiro. Ortiz entered the game batting .391 (9 for 23) with 2 home runs and 11 RBIs against Pineiro, who pitched out of the bullpen for the Red Sox in 2007.

Ortiz rewarded that faith with a home run, single and walk in Boston's 3-1 win Wednesday night.

"I understand David is having a tough time," Francona said. "He's hitting almost .400 off this guy. [Left-hander Scott] Kazmir is tomorrow. We're trying not to get caught up in, you know, all the whatever the word is. I'm trying to put players in a position they can succeed, trying to put the team in a position that they can succeed, and trying to do it at the same time. Sometimes that's why I get here earlier. We're all trying to do the best we can."

Francona responded to an inquisitor wondering whether the clubhouse is getting overwhelmed by the constant barrage of Ortiz-related questions, which led Dustin Pedroia on Tuesday night to defend Ortiz.

"I think that's a good thing," Francona said of Pedroia speaking out for Ortiz. "But that's part of playing in Boston. I don't think David's asking you guys [reporters] to come up and ask him about it, but that all goes with the territory. I don't know if you can have all the good … There's a bunch of media, you're going to ask questions. If there are two of you around, the questions will be less. That's just reality. It doesn't mean you guys are bad people -- well, maybe. It's just the reality of a lot of interest where we play."

But has it become a distraction? "No, no," Francona said. "I get asked every day. I would prefer to talk about other things. If we're talking about it, that means it's probably not going the way we'd like it to. If it is a distraction, then we have to figure out a way for it not to be.

"There are all kinds of distractions. He's one of our 25 guys, and he's been a valuable member of our team. I like the fact there's some loyalty. Again, it's not choosing. You mentioned something about Pedey. Pedey's probably best friends with Mike Lowell, but David is his teammate too. I guess I appreciate that part."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for Follow him on Twitter.