SEATTLE (AP) – David Ortiz sat silently at his locker, fiddling with an iPod. The broad back of his red T-shirt proclaimed: “Ahora es el tiempo.”

Not for Big Papi. The saying more aptly could read, “Now is (not) the time.”

The Boston Red Sox finally benched their slumping slugger on Friday night.

Manager Terry Francona left the five-time All-Star out of the lineup for the series opener at Seattle, a day after he went 0-for-7 and stranded 12 base runners – tying a team record.

After that game, in which he struck out three times, Ortiz advised reporters to “just put down ‘Papi stinks.”‘

Ortiz is batting .208. He is without a home run in 144 at-bats. His only longer homerless streak was 145 at-bats from Sept. 9, 1998-June 9, 2000 – and that was over partial seasons coming up with Minnesota.

Francona said the hiatus might last a couple of days, adding his No. 3 hitter “needs a deep breath.”

“I talked to him (Thursday) night after the game. Sometimes, stepping back will help,” Francona said. “Maybe I was too late in doing this – I hope not.”

Ortiz hit 112 home runs from 2006-08 but has not hit one since Sept. 22 against Cleveland’s Zach Jackson at Fenway Park. His slugging percentage of .300 entering Friday was 52 points lower than Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston’s speedy leadoff batter. Ortiz’s lowest slugging percentage for a full season in the major leagues is .446, in 2000 with the Twins.

He wore ear-bud headphones and walked out of the clubhouse without commenting three hours before Friday’s first pitch. The popular, often gregarious Ortiz then stayed in an off-limits training room for the remainder of time before batting practice, saying through a team spokeswoman he did not want to talk.

Francona left it up to Ortiz to take batting practice – or just take the entire day off.

“If staying away from his bat helps, good,” Francona said.

Ortiz watched from the bench for the second time this season – and second time in eight days – while J.D. Drew batted third. Rocco Baldelli took Ortiz’s place as designated hitter.

“Even when David is struggling, I love his presence in the lineup. But I think that also if there’s a time to step back and take a deep breath, it will help us in the long run,” Francona said of his team, which entered Friday 21-14 and one game behind Toronto for the lead in the AL East.

Francona said Ortiz has to fix some mechanics in his swing, while needing more confidence and just plain better luck.

“I think anytime something like this happens, it can’t just be one thing,” Francona said. “I don’t think he can work harder.”

Francona didn’t spend much time considering dropping Ortiz toward the bottom of the lineup, a move some have suggested during his power outage.

“I think it can be counterproductive,” the manager said. “When you make one move, it sets off a chain reaction” of having to shuffle other hitters.

“If you look up and David is hitting .217 or something in August,” Francona said, “we can move the lineup any way we want.”

AP-ES-05-15-09 2158EDT

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