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Shift to Busch means Ortiz's 'D' key10/25/2004 9:41 PM ET
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Having Game 3 at Busch Stadium might not be the only advantage St. Louis will gain with the World Series shifting from Boston to the home of the National League champion Cardinals.
Now that the games are being played in the NL city, the designated hitter used in the first two games will be dropped, with pitchers scheduled to hit. Not only does it mean Boston pitchers will have to hit, it means the Red Sox will likely not have Kevin Millar, one of their better hitters, in the starting lineup.
Because Boston manager Terry Francona does not want to keep designated hitter David Ortiz's bat out the lineup and the only position Ortiz can play is first base, Millar is expected to head to the bench.
"I don't mind that at all because it helps the team," Millar said. "That way I can go to the bench and maybe make us deeper. It's not like Seattle, with Edgar Martinez. He didn't have a position he could play. David can at least play first base."
Millar hit .297 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs in the regular season and is hitting .256 (10-for-39) in the postseason with a team-leading four doubles. Taking Millar's place in the lineup, if not his position, will be pitcher Pedro Martinez, 0-for-2 in two plate appearances this season and a career .094 hitter who hasn't had a base hit since 1997 when he was with Montreal. Martinez is 0-for-19 with the bat since then.
The net result of Millar out and Martinez in is unquestionably a less formidable lineup for Boston.
"Everybody knows that was coming up," Ortiz said. "We've been prepared for it, ready to face the situation. It's a situation that nobody can walk away from. Whenever you know that you're going to face a situation, you just get ready for it."
There's also the question whether playing the field will affect Ortiz's hitting as well as whether his limited time at the position could hurt the Boston defense.
"I'm not comfortable right now. I'm not at all. First base is not a position you're going to see too much action. I'm just going to go out there and try to catch whatever is around me."
Ortiz has always been a scary hitter for opposing pitchers, but his defense can frighten Red Sox Nation. He was charged with four errors in 34 games at the position this year and three errors in 45 games last year. Overall he has committed eight errors in his last 94 games.
Of the 49 Major Leaguers who played at least 30 games at first base this season only Mike Piazza (.985) of the New York Mets had a lower fielding percentage than Ortiz (.986).
"I don't think I'm that bad at first base," Ortiz said. "It's just getting a chance and the opportunity. When you go out there once in a while and you get an error, everybody looks at you like, 'Oh no, he's bad.' It's not like that. It's just you're not out there all the time and you're going to make mistakes.
"My problem playing first base was they stamped me right away. He's not a good first baseman. But they've never seen me play 130 games at first base. You need to be out there, not one, not two. The most games I've played here in Boston was, what, like 40 games at first base? Is that enough? No."
In the playoffs, the ball has a way of finding defensive liabilities. Even if that doesn't happen, the added responsibility of covering an important position can exact a toll on the player when he goes the plate.
Ortiz had stretches where his offense tailed off during his years in Minnesota and while blaming those lulls entirely on his defense is impossible to prove conclusively, there is no denying Ortiz hasn't played the field a lot, and certainly not against a lineup that continually pressures defenses like Tony La Russa's.
The Cardinals are expected to ramp up the National League style of play in Game 3. Look for more bunts, especially Ortiz's way, and more of a running game to put pressure on Ortiz, Red Sox pitchers and catcher Jason Varitek.
The Cardinals took advantage of Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell's sore shoulder on occasion in the NLCS. Bagwell couldn't throw well, and it cost the Astros on certain bunt plays and relays. Look for the Cards to attempt to exploit any weaknesses in Ortiz's defensive game.
The Red Sox, however, believe their club is well suited to the National League game.
"I do," center fielder Johnny Damon said. "I mean, I'm not really sure what we're going to do about the David Ortiz situation; if he's going to be playing first or if he's going to be coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter. So we definitely want David Ortiz in the lineup, but I think we are very well-suited.
"I mean, we have Dave Roberts and Gabe Kapler who can spell the outfielders if we have to do a double switch or what-not, Kevin Youkilis coming off the bench, Pokey Reese. But I think we are suited very well. Then again, so are they. They have been doing it all year, so it's going to be interesting how we approach it. Like I said, we definitely do not want David Ortiz out of the lineup, but that's something that Terry is going to have to figure out."
Ortiz matched the franchise record for RBIs in a World Series game with four in Game 1. He has 19 RBIs in 11 games this postseason, tying the all-time record for RBIs in a single postseason.
"If he was incapable of playing defense, that would be a big blow to them," La Russa said. "But, yeah, I don't see any reason why they can't play there."
It should also be noted that defensive shortcomings haven't hurt the Red Sox thus far. They've won both games despite committing eight errors as their steamroller offense hid the team's weak spots.
That may not be the case at Busch, where the Cardinals are 6-0 in the postseason and will be looking to even things up with Boston.
"Hopefully we'll have the advantages in our place like they had in theirs," Cardinals reliever Ray King said. "We've played our best baseball at home and we need to do it again."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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