Drew has smooth reentry into lineup

BOSTON -- Up until Sunday, shortstop Stephen Drew’s return to the Red Sox had gone anything but smoothly.

Already struggling with a 1-for-14 start, Drew suffered an ill-timed oblique injury in Detroit that made finding his timing at the plate that much more difficult. He missed six games, forced to recover in an itemized checklist fashion as his body dealt with an issue that had never appeared in his nine years of major league service.

Even Sunday would represent a trial by fire as Drew still was learning how his body would hold up with the injury.

“It’s something that I’ve never had in my career,” Drew said. “[I was] just making sure [I would] be able to go out and play that big league game. It took a little time.”

It seems the time paid off as Drew’s return to action Sunday marked his best showing of the season; he went 2-for-4 with a stolen base in the Red Sox’s 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. With the game going into extras, Drew played all 11 innings at short, making several plays at the position without missing a beat.

“Overall it was a good day,” Drew said. “Still moving forward. I was pretty pleased with it.”

In his first Fenway at-bat of the season, Drew pulled a 2-1 slider from Indians starter Corey Kluber to right for a line-drive single in the second. After striking out looking in the fifth on a pitch that appeared to be out of the zone, Drew’s third plate appearance came against left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Drew watched two sliders from Rzepczynski before taking a 92 mph sinker to left field for his second hit of the game.

In the ninth inning, Drew stepped up with a chance to win the game for the Red Sox. With Indians reliever John Axford struggling to locate his pitches and issuing back-to-back walks with one out, Drew got ahead of Axford 2-0 before watching two 95 mph fastballs get called for strikes. The next fastball came in at 96. Drew chased and struck out for the second time in the game.

“I thought I saw some good pitches,” Drew said. “I wish I could come back and put that ball in play. Getting back, I think the timing is pretty good so far.

“I had good at-bats. I want to be in those situations again because more times than not I think I’ll be able to get the job done.”

Before Sunday’s game, the chatter surrounding Drew centered on his timing at the plate, a situation magnified by the unique circumstances of his return to the major leagues. Without a chance to establish consistency in a spring training-like setting, manager John Farrell explained how Drew was behind in comparison to the majority of pitchers he had faced this season. On Sunday, Drew looked to be a step closer to major league form.

“He gets a ball to the pull side for a base hit, stays on a fastball away against a left-hander for a base hit,” Farrell said. “You see some consistent timing coming as he gets more at-bats, even with the four or five days down here.”

Drew hopes to continue that progression by getting back on the field Monday against the Minnesota Twins.

“I didn’t plan on having days off,” Drew said. “It’s something that was kind of unfortunate but at the same time I’m glad that it’s on the downhill.”