REDDICK DESERVES A CHANCE TO GET HOT AGAINBy Gordon Edes
First, this disclaimer: I suspect J.D. Drew will be restored to the Boston Red Sox's starting lineup when he comes off the disabled list Thursday. It is very rare for a veteran to lose his job because of injury, especially a player who makes $14 million a year.
And the rookie who replaced him, Josh Reddick, has had a rough three weeks at the plate, batting just .140 (8 for 57) in 21 games since his last multi-hit game, on Aug. 5. The kid who was hitting .343 on that date has lost 60 percentage points on his batting average since then. The shine has been coming off what had been one of the season's unexpected success stories, one small-town Georgia boy doing a great job filling in for another.
So yes, there's a strong argument to be made in favor of Drew, precisely what my ESPNBoston colleague Joe McDonald is doing in the story next to mine.
Still, it's hard to dismiss the jolt of energy Reddick gave the club back in mid-June, after Carl Crawford's woeful season turned even worse when he strained a hamstring, veteran Mike Cameron looked like a guy at the end of the line and Reddick was summoned from Pawtucket. Reddick made an instant impact, with hits in nine of his first 11 games. By the end of June, he was playing every day in left field.
Then, when Drew was lost, he became the right fielder and continued to produce. He also showed a willingness to get his uniform dirty with a couple of diving plays, which are not part of Drew's oeuvre.
Yes, Reddick has cooled off, dramatically, but one thing we know is that he's a streak hitter. He was in a .206 (7-for-34) slump in Pawtucket at the time of his call-up, but after a couple of hits in the big leagues he was off, batting .412 in his first 13 games and collecting six extra-base hits.
To me, the Red Sox have the luxury of seeing whether Reddick can get hot again, perhaps go on a streak that takes him into October. Spot start Drew at all three outfield positions over the next few weeks, let him get his at-bats, and if Reddick doesn't shake his funk, then make the change.
Perhaps Reddick catches fire like another young outfielder, name of Ellsbury, did at the end of '07. That worked out pretty well, as I recall.
LATE SUMMER AND EARLY FALL ARE DREW'S TIME OF YEARBy Joe McDonald
While the Boston Red Sox were playing the Texas Rangers last week, temperatures in Texas were above 100 degrees each afternoon. Because of the heat, the Red Sox decided to take batting practice inside each day and kept their pregame on-field activities to ground balls and pitchers' stretch.
Last Tuesday afternoon, with the temperature reaching 104, the lone player on the field was Boston's J.D. Drew. The Red Sox right fielder has been on the disabled list since July 20 with a left shoulder impingement, and here he was, in the heat running sprints from the left-field foul line to the left-center field wall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"I love this heat," he said as he concluded his workout.
It's that mindset that will carry him for the remainder of the season once he's activated from the DL on Thursday.
Sure, we're unlikely to see any fire or outward displays of emotion, but what we will see, as long as he's healthy, is consistent production in the heat of a pennant race and the playoffs. Sure, he was hitting .219 with just a .305 slugging percentage when he went on the DL, but how much of that was due to the shoulder? In his last 13 games before landing on the shelf, Drew had just five hits in 37 at bats (.135).
If Terry Francona gives Drew his job back in right field (which we expect him to do), what we should see is something more in line with his career numbers. September and October have always been his strongest months. He boasts a .291 career average with 42 homers and 141 RBIs in 262 career games (815 at-bats) in the last two months of the season.
The postseason has also been a time when Drew has stood out. Despite a .200 average with four homers and 12 RBIs in 27 career division series games, his numbers improve in the league championship series. He has a.324 average with three homers and 11 RBIs in 24 career LCS games. In his only World Series appearance in 2007, he went 5-for-15 (.333) with two doubles and two RBIs.
Besides, what do the Sox have to lose by giving Drew his job back? Josh Reddick, who has gotten the majority of starts in right in Drew's absence, has leveled off since a hot start. When Drew went on the DL in mid-July, Reddick was hitting .353. He is now batting .283 and has eight hits in his past 57 at-bats.