Stephen Drew unsure of return

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona manager Kirk Gibson says it was "unrealistic" to think shortstop Stephen Drew would be ready to play by Opening Day.

Drew is coming back from a brutal injury. He broke his right ankle and ripped the ligaments apart when his spikes were caught under him in a slide into home plate last July 20. His return is probably weeks, if not months, away although he said he has made slow, steady progress this spring.

"Nobody knows what to expect," Drew said in front of his locker at the team's spring training facility on Monday. "How many guys have done it total in the game? Maybe five."

No one associated with the team has put a timetable on Drew's return.

"I have no idea," Drew said. "I don't even have a date, but at the same time there have been no setbacks, and that's the good thing about it."

Drew has said he had only one day off while going through the grueling rehabilitation following surgery to repair the damage last July 21, one day after the injury.

Drew had been a fixture in the Diamondbacks' lineup since midway through the 2006 season. He's a career .270 hitter, who is Arizona's all-time leader in triples with 51, and is third in career hits (750) and doubles (168).

In a game against Milwaukee, Drew slid into home plate and the foot was trapped beneath him. In a difficult-to-watch scene available on various Internet sites, the foot turns 180 degrees and is pointing in the wrong direction before Drew grabs it and twists it back.

In the shortstop's absence, the Diamondbacks went on to win the NL West and come within a breath of beating Milwaukee in the division series. Willie Bloomquist filled in for Drew and will hold the same position when Arizona opens its season Friday at home against San Francisco. John McDonald, a fielding specialist acquired along with second baseman Aaron Hill in a late-season trade with Toronto, is the backup shortstop.

Gibson said Drew is "getting better."

"He's more confident," the manager said. "He is being more aggressive on certain movements. He did make considerable progress. I think maybe it was unrealistic that we all wish he could be ready."

Drew said he "never thought about Opening Day."

"I always thought about just coming and seeing where I'm at day by day or week by week," he said. "That's how I've kept it the whole time. If I keep it that way, I keep my mind renewed and fresh. It definitely is a patience kind of injury. It's taught me a lot about that."

Drew's fielding has been no problem. The big issue now is the kind of running baseball requires.

"It's going to be now starting and stopping, going from cold to a full-out sprint," Drew said. "I'm not there yet. That's what we're building up to."

He will spend some time in the minors when he's finally ready to play.

"The only way we would know is if he goes and tries to play," Gibson said. "I'm not saying he has to be able to play every day to bring him back, but certainly close to that."

Gibson said he would welcome Drew back if he's only able to play in two of three games at a time.

"I don't see him in a bench role, I see him as a guy who can play fairly regularly," Gibson said. "If he can play two out of every three games or something like that, in my own mind that might be good enough, because we have plenty of depth and we're going to play guys."

Drew has yet to slide into a base but foresees no mental obstacle to doing so, despite what happened the last time he did it.

"I think I'll be fine," he said. "I went through some tough challenges with this already. It's just another little stepping stone."