Ortiz Takes A Mental Health Day

David Ortiz confirmed Sunday what everyone assumed.

"I know exactly what I'm doing wrong right now and everything is right here," Ortiz told reporters, pointing to his head, before the series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park. "I'll work on that. I've been [screwed] up before. Big time."

He's rarely been this bad off, though. Ortiz got the night off Sunday in an attempt to snap him out of one of the worst slumps of his career. Ortiz, one of the game's premier power hitters since he arrived in Boston in 2003, is hitting an almost inconceivable .070 (3-for-43) so far—the worst batting average in baseball among players with enough plate appearances (3.1 per game) to qualify for the batting crown.

"I'm just trying to figure things out for a minute so I can go back to being ‘Big Papi' again," said Ortiz, who has finished among the top five in the Most Valuable Player balloting in each of the last five years. "You see this in baseball, a guy having a hard time. [He's told to] go home, chill out, come back with a fresh mind. It happens to everybody. And I guess that's when managers know when they need to bring something like that to the table.

"I always do what Terry [Francona] tells me to do. I'm an employee."

Ortiz is hitless in his last 17 at-bats, only the second time in his Sox career he's suffered through an 0-for-17 streak. It's the third-longest drought of Ortiz' career (he went 0-for-19 for the Twins in 2002 and 0-for-27 for the Twins from September 1998 through April 2000; he spent most of 1999 at Triple-A).

Francona initially said Saturday he was reluctant to sit Ortiz, but he admitted after watching the designated hitter grimace his way through another 0-for-4 effort that it might be best for all involved.

"I just think it's the right thing to do," Francona told reporters Sunday. "He came in today with kind of a little bounce to his step, a little more light-hearted than he's been. He'll have a good work day and then he can take a little bit of a mental [day]. I think he's gotten to the point where it's building, where he needed a break. That's the best way to put it."

Ortiz, who set career highs with a .332 batting average and 52 doubles last year despite battling a sore right knee all season, said he doesn't feel perfect physically but that the knee isn't why he's slumping. Ortiz had surgery on the right knee shortly after the World Series.

"This game, after you get prepared physically, you let the mind take over," Ortiz said. "Sometimes when you're fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting—this is the time when the mind gets some time off and regroups and goes back to normal. If you just keep on hitting and hitting and hitting, it takes longer for you to recover or whatever. I guess that's why managers make those kinds of decisions with their players. You can see the results later on."

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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