BOSTON -- There were some concerns coming into the season whether the Red Sox shortstop would hit.
But that conversation was about Jose Iglesias, not Stephen Drew. In one of those great incongruities for which this game is famous, Iglesias hit .450 in six games while Drew recovered from concussive symptoms, then was sent back to Pawtucket. Drew, meanwhile, came into Monday night's game with just three hits in his first 30 at-bats, and had 12 strikeouts and 4 walks in 34 plate appearances.
Drew is 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-12 with men on base, which is hardly in line with Sox expectations of how he would hit once he was fully recovered from a severely fractured ankle.
Drew sat out the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader after going hitless in five trips in the first game but was back Monday night, starting in the 9-hole for the first time this season. He drove a ball to the warning track that was caught by Oakland's Josh Reddick in the third, lined a single to right on his next at-bat, and also coaxed a walk. The night's work raised his average to .121.
Drew missed all but six games of spring training after being hit by a pitch March 7 and played in just four rehab games with Double-A Portland before joining the Sox. Manager John Farrell said more at-bats should resolve the issues Drew is having at the plate.
“There have been quite a few at-bats that haven’t been two- or three-pitch outs,’’ Farrell said.
The numbers bear that out. The only Sox hitter with at least 10 plate appearances this season who has seen more pitches per at-bat than Drew is Jonny Gomes (4.45 P/PA). Drew is at 4.32.
“I just think it’s a matter of at-bats for Stephen before things begin to click for him,’’ he said. “It’s not a flaw in the swing or anything like that. It’s a matter of getting some consistent timing and building some confidence on his end.’’
Drew, when talking about his slow start the other day, hardly sounded like a man lacking in confidence.
“I feel comfortable,’’ he said. “Just going through a little skid, the kind that everybody goes through at some point in the year. Mine happens to be at the beginning.
“I’m going to move past this, and it's going to be really good. Just keep my head positive. The great thing is the team is playing well, guys are hitting well, we’re just having fun. For me, it’ll come along sooner or later.’’
The biggest reason Drew’s slow start is sending up a few red flags is that he struggled mightily upon his return last season, 11 months after having ankle surgery in Arizona. Drew batted .193 for the Diamondbacks in 40 games, then was traded to Oakland, where he hit .250 in 39 games.
But the 30-year-old Drew, who signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal with the Sox last winter, said he is fully recovered, both from the ankle injury and the concussive symptoms that disrupted his spring.
“I feel great,’’ he said. “It’s good. The foot injury I had was definitely a major injury. Everybody says, ‘How do you feel?’ This year’s been great. Hopefully we’ll keep playing well. Defensively the range is there.
“The great thing is I don’t worry about it anymore. When I first came back, I came back a little too soon. I was trying to get my mobility, my pain tolerance down, and now that’s over with. It doesn’t even cross my mind anymore.’’
Drew has handled 39 chances in the field without committing an error. No one in the Sox infield had made an error until Pedro Ciriaco, filling in for Drew on Sunday night, threw one away.
“I’ve always that said when your at-bat’s over, don’t take it to the field,’’ he said. “I never have. Playing at short, playing that position, you don’t have time to do that.’’