Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Drew says shoulder is fine
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- J.D. Drew has no complaints about Boston adding conditions to his contract to protect the team in case he re-injures his shoulder. The club's new right fielder is confident the Red Sox have nothing to worry about.
Drew showed up at spring training Wednesday with a $70 million, five-year deal saying he's as healthy as he's ever been in his career and he's sure his right shoulder will hold up throughout the duration of his contract.
"Absolutely," Drew said. "I've been in a situation over the last three years where I've changed some things in the way I kind of manage myself off the field, and that's really paid off."
Drew reached a preliminary agreement with Boston on Dec. 5 after opting out of the last three years of his five-year, $55 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Jan. 26, the Red Sox finally announced the deal after language was inserted allowing them to get out of the guaranteed money for 2010 and 2011 if he re-injures his shoulder.
He had surgery on the shoulder in September 2005.
"Completely normal," Drew said about the delay in finalizing the deal. "I was under a complete understanding that the deal was a done deal. They just wanted to get some wording in to protect them and I was fine with that. I went about my business as usual."
He said he got another opinion on his shoulder from doctors and it feels "great" now.
"Everything feels wonderful. I've been throwing, hitting, doing all things I need to be doing to get ready to be here," he said.
Drew hit .283 with 20 homers and a career-high 100 RBIs in 146 games last season. He replaces Trot Nixon, who signed as a free agent with Cleveland after batting .278 in eight full seasons with Boston.
Fans are bound to compare the aggressive Nixon, who dove at fly balls, with the calmer Drew, who was criticized in a book for lacking passion by Tony La Russa, his manager for five full seasons in St. Louis. Drew said he hasn't read the book but would say hello
if he saw La Russa.
"You get kind of fed up," Drew said about his image. "He's entitled to his opinion and I've kind of heard things about [the book] here and there, but it's something I can't focus on."
Drew also drew criticism from current teammate Curt Schilling when he didn't sign with Philadelphia after being taken with the second draft pick in 1997 and saying he wanted $10 million. Schilling was with the Phillies at the time. Drew re-entered the
draft and signed with the Cardinals after they took him with the fifth pick in 1998.
Schilling has said he'll welcome Drew as a teammate.
"I saw him today on the treadmill," Drew said. "Those days seem just like yesterday and you look back and it's been, what was it, 10 years ago or so? It's going to be completely fine."
Drew provides a solid No. 5 hitter to protect David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who hit third and fourth. A left-handed hitter, Drew figures he'll benefit from the high left-field wall at Fenway Park.
Balls that were long outs at Dodger Stadium could be doubles in his new home park.
"His grinding out of at-bats and his on-base percentage are excellent," manager Terry Francona said. "His ability to drive in a lot of runs is, also. He could hit second and he'd be on base, but we want him to hit fifth and get on base and drive in runs. That's part of the package of why he's so special."
Drew is a solid fielder but must get used to the quirks of right field at Fenway with a deep gap and a low fence down the line.
"I played there once before," he said. "I flipped over in the seats, so it's definitely tricky."
Those seats contain passionate, demanding fans. They'll cheer if he homers in the first inning and boo if he grounds into a double play in the third.
"I think the little things that people don't understand is the way I prepare myself to play the game," he said. "I've been taught basically from my college days to play the game on an even keel and play the game focused and fundamentally correct.
"I think sometimes that's perceived the wrong way," he said.
But, after his differences with Schilling and La Russa, Drew has shown an ability to not let critics distract him from producing on the field.
"I look back to playing in St. Louis," he said. "It was a great town for baseball and I think Boston will ultimately top that."