BOSTON — For the first time since 2002, the Yankees will be able to look into the dugout at Fenway Park on Tuesday, when they open a series against the Red Sox, and not see David Ortiz.
“That’s good for us,” Brett Gardner said. “He always seemed to swing the bat pretty darn good against us.”
Gardner’s right. No team was tormented more — and more often — by the retired slugger than the Yankees. In 1,055 plate appearances against the Yankees, Ortiz finished with an OPS of .961, higher than against any other AL East team.
And no one is happier to see him go than Tuesday’s starter, Luis Severino. The Yankees right-hander faced Ortiz just eight times over the previous two seasons, but surrendered three homers.
“I was bad against him,” Severino said, shaking his head at the memory. “It seemed like every time he came up, he hit a homer off me. Long ones, too. I’m glad he’s out [of the game].”
Asked if it would be weird to see the Red Sox without Ortiz, Severino smiled and said: “It won’t be weird. It’s gonna be good. It’s gonna be awesome.”
CC Sabathia, slated to start the series finale on Thursday, warned that though their former nemesis is gone, his presence remains around the Red Sox.
“That lineup is still deep,’’ Sabathia said. “I’ve faced them before without him there and they were tough. He’s left a big imprint on them. It’s gonna be like he’s still there, with what he taught guys like Hanley [Ramirez], Mookie [Betts] and the other guys.”
Perhaps, but the lessons haven’t caught on yet this year. The Red Sox enter the game last in the American League with 11 homers — a number Ortiz seemingly could reach in one series against his rivals.
“It’s gonna be a little different,’’ Gardner said. “He’s been there for a long time. I know he meant a lot not just to that team, but to that city. The fans obviously love him, and I’m sure his absence is already felt. But the game has a way of doing that. It doesn’t wait around for anybody. Now that he’s gone, they’re gonna be looking for someone else to be at the center of that lineup.”