FORT MYERS, Fla. — J.D. Drew has been one of the least talked about and least written about player on the Boston Red Sox’s roster this offseason.
And that’s probably OK with him.
Entering the fourth year of a five-year, $70 million contract, the Red Sox right-fielder is often criticized by fans, media, and opposing scouts as not being on the field often enough, succumbing to various injuries. In 2008, he appeared in just 109 games as a bad back limited him.
But in 2009, he played in 137 games, fourth most in his 12-year career, despite a nagging left shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.
“Just a little shoulder surgery that I had, cleaning up some bone spurs on my AC joint,” he said. “It was giving me fits throughout the year last year. Really didn’t know what was going on. We never took any pictures or did anything during the season. It only got worse as the offseason went along. Came in around Thanksgiving, had that done, feel great now.”
The surgery was in his non-throwing, shoulder. It also was not the shoulder that would allow the Red Sox to opt out of his contract if he spends 35 days on the disabled list in either 2009 or 2010 with an injury related to a preexisting right shoulder condition.
Drew said his offseason workouts were limited to running until January. He said he has no restrictions on his spring training activities.
Although he said the shoulder did not bother him during games, he had two cortisone shots — one at the end of the season — and missed four of the last five games before returning for the final game of the regular season and the playoffs.
“I had some time where there were days when it was a lot worse than others,” he said. “The worst part of it was batting cage and doing your early work stuff where repetition of swinging the bat kind of got it aggravated. There were times in the cage with (hitting coach Dave Magadan) where I would swing and just kind of say, ‘Alright, I’m done. This is going to get too aggravated for me to go out there and play the game.’ So I would just shut it down, and then we clinched and I told (manager Terry Francona), ‘This thing has really been getting to me a little bit.”’
Last season, Drew hit .279 with 24 home runs and 68 RBIs. He had a .392 on-base percentage (ninth-best in the American League) and .522 slugging percentage last season.
“What we told J.D. is that the more he’s on the field, the better team we are,” Francona said. “He understands that. So, It’s my responsibility, our responsibility, that if he needs a day off, to give him one before it turns into four. Some guys bodies (need that). He’s had shoulder problems, he’s had finger issues. But it is easier now that I know him. And I think he’ll talk to me, and tell me how he feels. Like today, I’m not that shook up that he didn’t spend the whole day on the field today. We’ll survive.”
The manager is aware of the perception of Drew. But, it may be Drew’s talent that makes him an easy target.
“I think J.D. is always going to be held to that extra whatever because his swing is so pretty,” Francona said. “He does so many things and makes it look effortless. I think last year he played in 137 games. I know he didn’t start that many. But if he does that, he does give us a certain amount of flexibility. He can hit anywhere in the order. There’s a lot of things that he brings that probably do go somewhat unnoticed maybe by the regular fan base.”
Drew is aware of the perception that he is injury prone, but doesn’t let it bother him.
“There’s things that go on during a baseball season and people don’t realize. And that was the thing that was not necessarily threatening the year but it was just one of those aggravating things that you got to deal with,” he said.
Drew still has not put together the kind of year he would like in Boston. In three seasons with the Red Sox he is averaging .276 with a .390 OBP and .485 slugging, all below his career averages. His 24 home runs and 68 RBIs last seasons were highs with the Sox.
“You’re definitely going to have your up and down months in baseball,” he said. “That’s just how it goes. But last year, not too bad last year. Had some up and downs. But for the most part starting off after the All-Star break 0 for 23 is not a nice thing. But was kind of able to right the ship and get on a good streak. So, hopefully can kind of get that going again this year.”