The 2010 season hasn’t dampened Jose Ortiz’s recollection of the way 2009 ended.
Facing the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Pacific League Climax Series last October, the Hawks were outscored 15-5 in a humbling, two-game sweep. Ortiz was 1-for-8 in that series, and the memory of the Hawks’ shortcomings in Sendai remain a motivating factor for the slugger and his teammates.
“It’s a new season, but we still think about last year,” Ortiz said. “Last year it was two games, and then we went home. We want to go to the Climax Series this year and don’t want the outcome to be like that.
“We’re going to try harder this year. We want to win and at least get to the second stage.”
Ortiz is doing his part to help the Hawks reach their goal. Entering Thursday, he was leading the PL with 20 homers and his 64 RBIs were second in the league. Ortiz was hitting .269, slugging .511, had a .331 on-base percentage and an .842 on-base plus slugging percentage.
He credits his performance to the peace of mind that comes from being in the lineup every day. Knowing manager Koji Akiyama will pencil his name in before every game, lessens the pressure of trying to do too much. That has led to a much looser Ortiz at the plate.
“Of course that’s part of it,” Ortiz said. “When I played for Bobby (Valentine), and Bobby’s a nice guy and he liked me a lot, but sometimes, if I was 0-for-4, I didn’t know if I was going to play the next day.
“Here, I was having trouble for a couple of weeks, but they played me. They believed in me. Then when I overcame my problems, I started playing well again.”
Ortiz is in his second year with the Hawks, but has been in Japan since 2003. His first two NPB seasons were with the Orix BlueWave.
He left Japan in 2005 and spent two seasons with the Lancaster Barnstomers of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He returned to Japan to play two seasons for Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines starting in 2007, before joining the Hawks last year.
“I really enjoy playing here,” Ortiz said of the Hawks organization. “They play me every day. I played with the Marines, and they played me a lot, but not every day. Here I get a chance to play every day. It’s good. Because sometimes you go 0-for-4, but you can still get ready for the next day. Because you know you’re going to play.
“Akiyama, the manager, he’s really easygoing. So I really like it here a lot. I appreciate the opportunity to play every day.”
With the Hawks currently tied with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for third-place in the standings, Ortiz is ready to pull his weight in the race for a Climax Series berth.
“I just need to do what I’ve been doing,” Ortiz said. “I’d like to keep putting the ball in play and getting RBIs. That’s the important thing, the RBIs. That’s going to help the team win games.
“I hope I can keep my condition OK and don’t try to do too much, don’t get tired and don’t try to change anything.”