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BOSTON -- For shortstop Stephen Drew and Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, this was not the time for back-tracking.
Drew is out roughly $4 million from the $14.1 million qualifying offer he turned down last fall but said he is just happy to be back.
"It seems like I haven't left, which is a great feeling," Drew said after passing his physical Wednesday and officially signing a prorated version of that qualifying offer, one that will pay him just over $10 million. "I'm excited to get going and get playing."
|Stephen Drew, left, was in uniform Wednesday night for the Red Sox.|
Drew was in uniform Wednesday night and will also be with the club Thursday until he clears option waivers, which is when the Red Sox will send him out on a minor-league assignment. Farrell said he would use Drew only on an emergency basis.
"If a circumstance comes up and they need me," Drew said, "I'm going be there for sure."
Drew said he expects he will need about 10 games in the minors to be ready. Cherington, meanwhile, was not playing the "what if" game, either.
After spending the offseason and spring training heralding Xander Bogaerts as ready to be the team's everyday shortstop and that the club was focused only on the players on the roster, Cherington expressed no regret that the Red Sox didn't sign Drew sooner.
Circumstances had changed, he said in a conference call, citing Will Middlebrooks' finger injury, and his responsibility is to field the best team possible.
"We have an interest in trying to build a deeper roster and as much depth at every part of the roster that we can," Cherington said. "Frankly, the left side of the infield is an area we have been looking at adding to, really, for several months."
The push to sign Drew, Cherington said, began last weekend (Drew said he heard from the club on Sunday), and with the chance to bring him back before other teams could potentially bid for him after next month's amateur draft without fear of losing a compensatory draft pick, the Red Sox acted quickly.
"The Middlebrooks injury was another factor in this and so, like I said before, our opinion on Stephen and our position on Stephen as a player, as a person, never changed, didn't change at all since the day after the season last year," said Cherington, who was away on a scouting trip. "It just so happened now is the time where it was able to all come together and we were able to add a very good infielder to the team, and we hope he'll make the team stronger."
Cherington insisted that the club has not lost confidence in Bogaerts' ability to play shortstop. Manager John Farrell said he met again with Bogaerts Wednesday to reiterate that position.
Asked if moving Bogaerts to third base now means they will have to go through growing pains again next spring if they move Bogaerts back to short, Cherington said: "We're just focused on today and 2014 and trying to put the best team out there. Certainly we would not do this if we didn't believe Xander Bogaerts could handle this and continue being a player for us this year and be a player for us for a long time, because that's important. We wouldn't make any move or decision if we thought that would be jeopardized and we don't believe it is.
"As far as what comes down the road, that's down the road. We'll figure it out. Right now, he's a very important player on this team. Hopefully we've added another good player to the team and hopefully this just gives us a little bit deeper team with a deeper lineup and helps us win more games."
Drew said he didn't anticipate any problems developing between Bogaerts and him.
"What it boils down to is look at last year, how it happened, how well [Bogaerts] did play third," Drew said. "I'm not saying he won't be a shortstop. It's something with Will breaking his finger and them needing help, this presented itself.
"I think [Bogaerts] will feel comfortable with it, myself and the whole team. That doesn't change the fact he's a great player, he's young, he's 21 years old, he's done great. You saw that last year. With all this talk and whatever, me coming back or what-not, it's something that's going to help the team and hopefully that gets resolved quick."
Drew said he has spent "seven days a week" working out, including baseball activity, first at the Boras Sports Performance Institute in Miami, and then back home in Georgia, where he worked out with the nearby Valdosta State University baseball team.
"I know I worked hard," he said. "I know there's nothing I have to worry about there. I put all the time and effort needed to be ready for this moment. I knew it would happen quick; I didn't know where. I am excited to be back here, with the guys I do know and the guys I haven't [met]. It's still a tight race."
Drew said it was "hard" to leave the kind of money he did on the table, but said it was also important for him to be in a position where he can be a free agent again after the season and can be signed without costing a team a draft pick. His agent, Scott Boras, has railed against the qualifying-offer system, saying it unfairly penalized Drew and another of his clients, Kendry Morales, who also remains unsigned.
"All I wanted to do was in the offseason (was) be a true free agent," Drew said. "I guess that draft pick was a huge, huge part in that. Yes, it was hard, but at the same time, it was one of those deals where I really wanted to be a true free agent at the end of this year."