Oh no! David Ortiz is done!

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david ortiz frustrated.jpgHere we go again.
On the heels of a rather unimpressive spring (.226/.284/.419 with three homers in 62 at-bats), David Ortiz has opened the 2010 season 0-for-7, already leading to a string of articles that he’s done.
Last year saw the same thing, though I think it took at least a week. And Ortiz really did look done for a span of two months. He didn’t hit his first homer until May 20. In the 49 games before he hit his second homer on June 6, he batted .188/.281/.288 in 191 at-bats. He was about as much of a liability as any major leaguer over that span.
The rest of the season was a much different story, though. Ortiz came in at .266/.360/.557 with 27 homers and 78 RBI in his remaining 350 at-bats. It was still south of what he did from 2003 to 2007, but he was one of the AL’s better hitters for four months.
Yet Ortiz entered 2010 as a question mark, the so-called key to whether the Red Sox offense would be merely above average or one of baseball’s best. And the 0-for-7 start makes for an easy story for writers facing a deadline.
A little too easy. Ortiz looked lost at the plate for much of the early portion of last year. We’ve hardly gotten to that point this year. In Tuesday’s loss, he hit a ball in his first at-bat that would have been a single for everyone else in the league. However, the Yankees employed the shift to perfection and his hard shot into what should have been the hole between first and second was gloved by Robinson Cano in shallow right.
In the eighth, he should have been ahead 3-0 on Damaso Marte, but Angel Hernandez called a pitch eight inches off the plate a strike. Had the count been 3-0 instead of 2-1, maybe he would have crushed the hittable fastball he received next. As it was, he was a touch slow and flied out to center.
Ortiz is no longer a superstar, but if he’s still a 900-OPS designated hitter, he’s quite an asset. I projected him to finish a bit under that: .263/.358/.504 with 28 homers and 97 RBI in 502 at-bats. Given his decline, it makes sense to play matchups with him and slide him down in the lineup when he’s slumping. But I doubt we’ll get to the point at which the Red Sox will simply give up on him.
As for whether he should start tonight, I’m in favor of it. Sitting Ortiz in favor of Mike Lowell against tough lefties will make sense most of the time. Ortiz, though, has hit .367/.431/.551 in 49 career at-bats against Andy Pettitte. Manager Terry Francona will pick his spots to get Lowell into the lineup, but I’m not sure this should be one of them.

Astros talking to Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole about extensions

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It’s extension season and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros — who already agreed to an extension with Alex Bregman — are discussing contract extensions with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

Funny thing about Verlander, by the way: when he got his current $180 million deal, most people fell into the “oh, there’s an overpay!” column. What’s more, this past winter, when everyone was talking about how bad it is to give guys big long term deals, Verlander’s name was notably absent in the conversation despite the fact that his deal has turned out to be quite good. I suppose that says something about how good the anti-long-term deal folks are at cherrypicking.

That being said, Rosenthal says “it would be an upset” if either Verlander or Cole signed extensions. I can see that. Verlander is locked up this year and has a vesting option for 2020, and a lot can happen in a year or two. Cole is a Scott Boras client and Boras clients tend to hit the market rather than sign extensions. Perhaps their former teammate, Dallas Keuchel‘s, terrible experience on the free agent market this winter will alter that calculus. Hard to say.