Being for the benefit of Big Papi

The celebrated Mr. P performed his feat on Thursday eve in Tampa Bay.

It looked a little like retro night in Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

No, there were no rainbow Devil Rays uniforms on the other side, but from the Red Sox lineup, there was a familiar look:

1. Marco Scutaro SS
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. David Ortiz DH
4. Kevin Youkilis 1B
5. Adrian Beltre 3B
6. Jeremy Hermida LF
7. Jason Varitek C
8. Mike Cameron CF
9. Darnell McDonald RF
John Lackey P

True, Scutaro, Beltre, Hermida, Cameron, McDonald and Lackey are all new to 2010.  But it’s obvious where this is going.

With J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez out with injuries, David Ortiz was back in the no. 3 hole in the lineup for the first time in a year. And he was back there because he is hitting the ever-loving crap out of everything he sees.

He had a solid night, going 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and a walk, raising his average, again, to .266.

I know his numbers are all over the place, but let’s look again, for fun:

APRIL (16 games played):
8 hits, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .143 AVG, 524 OPS

MAY (19 games played):
25 hits, 9 HR, 23 RBI, .368 AVG, 1.230 OPS

Yeah, May is looking good.

And it’s not just that May is that much better than April (of course, it is). It’s that it’s better than just about everyone else in the majors this month. And this is just straight up one of the best months of his career. How did this all happen? How did almost every writer and every scout get this wrong?

It’s not that hard. He looked slow in April and he wasn’t able to hit what used to be his bread and butter. And in May, he looks lightning quick, but most importantly, he looks confident. The best part of the David Ortiz transformation into Big Papi in late 2003 was his constant cool, the swagger he brought to the batter’s box for each at-bat. It was more James Dean than Muhammad Ali. There was a step, a look, a spit on the hands, a clap, and then he’s in, not glaring at the pitcher as much as just concentrating. He had a job to do, and there was no doubt he was going to do it.

When he suffered that wrist injury in 2008, things changed. His hand hurt, and he didn’t have that same confidence coming into the box. There was a trepidation where there was once sure-mindedness. His swing changed, his hands were slower, and he wasn’t the same. He fought through a rough April and May in 2009 before rounding back into shape, but nothing compares to what he’s doing now. He wrapped up last year with 28 HR and 99 RBI, very solid. This time around? Even with his horrid April, he’s on pace for 46 HR and 124 RBI, which would rank as his third-best season from a power perspective. Will he maintain that? Probably not. But he doesn’t really have to. He just needs to be himself.

There was a cool moment last night, as he stepped into the box against noted Red Sox killer Matt Garza. He took a strike, and stepped out for a second. And when he stepped out, it was back — that calm, that coolness that defined him as the most terrifying hitter in the American League for so long. There was no fear or anxiety, just patience.

He spit in his gloves, clapped, grabbed the bat and stepped back into the box. He worked the count to 2-2. And then he sent one deep into right field, and started his long, slow trot around the bases.

That’s not David Ortiz. That’s Big Papi.

One response to “Being for the benefit of Big Papi

  1. Pingback: Whatever happens, what a season! « Kick Saves and Shutouts, by Nick Tavares

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