CLEVELAND -- A text message on Red Sox manager Terry Francona's cell phone delivered the good news: David Ortiz wanted in.
Off to the worst start of his career, Boston's slumping slugger was back in the starting lineup on Monday night against the Cleveland Indians after sitting out a game against the New York Yankees to clear his head and find his batting stroke.
Ortiz was in his familiar No. 3 spot as Boston's DH, one night after sitting out the nationally televised game. Ortiz, who had offseason knee surgery, was batting .070 with three hits in 43 at-bats. But he singled in his first at-bat against Jake Westbrook, ending an 0-for-17 slide and improving his average to .079 (3-for-38) against right-handers.
Following Boston's 8-5 win Sunday, Francona and Ortiz spoke during the club's early morning flight to Cleveland.
"I said, if I put you back in, I want you to feel good about it," Francona said. "I said I can live with another day, but this is why we're doing this. I said call me tomorrow."
Later, Francona thought he was texting with his 14-year-old daughter, when he got a message that said: "Put me in" followed by a profanity.
"I couldn't figure it out, but I was actually kind of relieved," Francona joked. "The good news is my daughter isn't speaking like that and David wants to play. ... He understands his responsibilities here. He carries them out pretty good. He's been struggling and I think it did everybody some good."
Ortiz has been lost mentally at the plate. He's not swinging with confidence, and Francona sat the 32-year-old for what he described as "a big mental day."
Francona said he would have been fine with Ortiz taking another day off, but wasn't going to keep the career .289 hitter on the bench if he didn't want to be there.
"I just wanted him to get what he needed to get out of it," Francona said. "And if he needed another day, I was willing to bite the bullet so he could do that. I didn't want him be just, 'OK, there's one day, now go get 'em.'"
Ortiz hit a career-high .332 with 35 homers and 117 RBIs last year despite playing on a right knee that was sore most of the season. He underwent offseason surgery to repair damaged cartilage after Boston swept Colorado in the World Series.
Ortiz insists he's fine physically and just needed some time to regroup. He had little to say before facing Indians starter Jake Westbrook. He came in 0-for-7 against the right-hander.
Asked if the day off helped, Ortiz said "We'll see," before heading to the indoor batting cages at Progressive Field.
Francona said resting Ortiz seemed to be the best solution before his struggles worsened.
"I wanted to do what was right," he said. "I wanted it to do some good, that's all I was looking for."