Friday, May 20, 2011 Updated: May 21, 11:50 AM ET
Ortiz: You haven't seen anything yet
By Gordon Edes ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- It's acceptable, of course, to be the designated hitter when these interleague games are played in your home park, such as Friday night, when David Ortiz contributed two doubles to Boston's season-high 19 hits in a 15-5 rout of the Chicago Cubs.
But what will "Big Papi" do when the Sox go to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Houston, as they'll be required to do at the end of June?
"Just watch," he said with a chuckle. "Pinch hit. They might give me a game. But you can't move out [Adrian Gonzalez]. That guy can flat-out rake. I'm telling you, this guy, it's unbelievable. So I'll be watching everybody."
It's impossible not to like what Ortiz and everyone else is seeing these days out of the Red Sox, winners of seven in a row and just a half-game out of first place in the American League East, that 2-10 start fading rapidly in their rearview mirrors.
"When you have guys struggling and you don't even know it, that's how good this team is hitting right now," David Ortiz said after Boston's 15-5 win over the Cubs.
"Right now, it's like this," Ortiz said. "When you have guys struggling and you don't even know it, that's how good this team is hitting right now."
Ortiz sees Dustin Pedroia smack two hits and walk two times, he sees Jarrod Saltalamacchia rocket a ball off the Volvo sign in left-center and reach base four times, he sees Carl Crawford hit a two-run single and deliver three walk-off hits this month, and he issues a forecast: This offense is only going to get better.
"You watch," he said. "You watch. That's about to happen. Look at Pedey, he had a great game tonight, you know what I'm saying? I guarantee you it will be any time for CC. He's getting his hits; he just hasn't had that one game where he can say, 'Shoot, I've figured it out,' but he's battling. You see Salty.
"One part of the lineup needs to stay consistent for the other part of the lineup to walk into."
That consistency can now be found in the heart of the Red Sox order. Gonzalez, who on Friday night had his first four-hit game as a member of the Red Sox, has raised his average to .326 and his major league-leading RBI total to 41 in 44 games, which puts him on pace for 150 this season. Nineteen of those RBIs have come in just his past 11 games.
Kevin Youkilis homered and doubled twice Friday, giving him an eight-game hitting streak in which he has four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs.
"At the beginning this season, Youks had hand surgery [last year] and I think he was afraid to let it go a little bit," Ortiz said. "It happened to me when I injured my hand in '08. When I came back in the beginning, I was a little protective. It's not even you sometimes. It's your mind that does it.
"But right now, the way I see him hitting that inside fastball, that's him right there. Youks, he's unbelievable, man. We knew he had the good eyes when he first came up, but he wasn't an everyday player. But [management], they knew. What they were expecting, that's what he's doing right now: the good eye, he swings at good pitches, the power.
"The one thing that surprised me is the power. This guy has some ridiculous power. He's a strong dude. He scares me sometimes, how powerful he is."
And then there is Ortiz, who with two doubles Friday night raised his average to .297, the highest it has been this late in a season since he ended 2007 batting .332. With 17 extra-base hits, including eight home runs, he's slugging .516, and with 20 walks, he has a .375 on-base percentage.
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Consistent? Only twice this season has Ortiz gone as many as two starts without a hit, and in one of those pairings he walked three times in a game.
And while talking about Toronto's late bloomer, Jose Bautista, and how it took him time to figure out how to play the game, Ortiz drew on his own experience.
"The best thing that ever happened to me was coming here to play," Ortiz said, "because once I got here, I started watching superstar guys. I wasn't playing with any superstars [in Minnesota]. I was with a group of kids.The veteran guys, nobody was a superstar. I was living with that.
"Once I got here, I was watching Nomar [Garciaparra], watching Manny [Ramirez], watching Pedro [Martinez], watching how everyone did things and the way they tried to stay consistent. I watched that and learned from that.
"I had the ability to hit already, and once I learned how not to swing at bad pitches, how to watch video, how to get an idea of what a pitcher wants to do against me, this and that, that was it."
And it will surely profit Gonzalez to be here, too, he said, noting how often Gonzalez was walked intentionally with San Diego -- 70 times in the past three seasons, 35 times in 2010.
"That's not going to happen here," he said. "You got to deal with Youk, you got to deal with myself, you got to deal with Jed Lowrie, who is killing it. You don't walk into that trouble."
It's only trouble when Gonzalez tries to run, like in the third inning Friday night, when third-base coach Tim Bogar waved him home, thinking he could score from first on Ortiz's double. Gonzalez was cut down easily.
"We got to get him in a running program," Ortiz said, the laughter coming easily on a night when everything seemed so right.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.