BALTIMORE — There will be games, particularly against lefthanded starters, when Jose Iglesias starts at shortstop for the Red Sox. But manager John Farrell made it clear on Thursday that his faith in Stephen Drew hasn’t wavered.
Drew went into Thursday night’s game against Baltimore hitting .223 after going 1 for 13 in the three-game series at Tampa Bay. Farrell wasn’t deterred, and had him back in the lineup for the seventh consecutive game. Drew went 0 for 4 with a sacrifice fly in the 5-4 loss to the Orioles, dropping his average to .218.
“Stephen’s a very good shortstop and he’s done an excellent job defensively,” Farrell said. “We know that there’s been some spurts of streakiness where he’s had multi-hit games, he’s driven the ball with a little bit more.
“He recognizes that he’s grinding some things through right now. He’ll be the first one to admit it. But the fact is he’s been a key part of this team and the success that we’ve had as a group.”
Drew was a career .265 hitter before he signed with the Sox with an on-base percentage of .328 that was close to league average.
“It’s been a slower start than I’d like,” he said. “It’s something I’m working on every day.”
Drew’s defense has been well above average, if not as flashy as the glove work by Iglesias.
“He makes every play and makes them look easy,” third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. “His throws are almost all perfect, too. The guy is a good player.”
Said Farrell: “We’re in healthy shape as far as our infield is concerned. Yet we know that there is internal competition that is present as well. But he’s our shortstop for right now.”
Farrell said the coaches value Drew’s consistency in the field.
“It cuts down on added opportunities that the opposition might get. You give another team an extra out and that can lead to runs. The biggest thing from our end as a coaching staff is that he’s a very dependable defender. You know what you’re going to get.”
The Red Sox also have $9.5 million invested in Drew and aren’t going to give up on that investment easily.
Jon Lester will start against the Orioles on Sunday, as the Red Sox decided to give Clay Buchholz more time to recover from a stiff neck.
The hope now is for Buchholz to start on Tuesday against the Rays at Fenway Park. He has started one game since June 2 because of minor injuries.
“I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a concrete thing for Tuesday, but we feel like two additional days would be an adequate time to get over the soreness,” Farrell said. “But we won’t put him out there until he’s symptom-free.”
Pitching Lester on regular rest is an attractive alternative given his history against the Orioles. He is 14-1, 2.63 in 21 career starts against Baltimore, 7-0, 2.52 in 10 starts at Camden Yards.
No Derby for Ortiz
David Ortiz said he would not participate in the Home Run Derby, even if asked by American League team captain Robinson Cano, who is a good friend.
“I’m too old,” the 37-year-old Ortiz said with a chuckle. “I’m just happy when I hit one in a game. It takes a lot out of you, too.”
Ortiz won the Home Run Derby in 2010. He has been in the event six times.
Ortiz has a commanding lead in the voting for designated hitter. If he were selected for the game, it would be his ninth appearance.
Jacoby Ellsbury has become one of the best leadoff hitters in the game after a poor start to the season, getting on base at a high percentage and stealing bases at will. But his power has yet to reappear.
Ellsbury has one home run all season, that coming on April 7. Since the start of the 2012 season, he has five homers over 566 at-bats.
Ellsbury hit 32 homers over 660 at-bats in 2011. The center fielder partially dislocated his right shoulder early in 2012. But Farrell isn’t sure that explains the drop in power.
“We’re still seeing good bat speed, particularly when his timing’s right and he gets his front foot on the ground,” Farrell said. “There’s no complaint of any shoulder issues. It could be confidence as well.
“What we don’t want him to do is start to sacrifice everything just to hit a few home runs.”
Napoli takes ill
Mike Napoli doubled in the second inning. But he did not come out to play first base in the third inning because of what the Red Sox said was an illness . . . Alfredo Aceves was optioned back to Triple A Pawtucket after his strong six innings against the Rays on Wednesday. He allowed one run over six innings in a game the Sox won, 2-1. Righthanded reliever Alex Wilson was recalled to add some depth to the bullpen. The 26-year-old Wilson pitched well in 16 appearances for the Sox from April 10 to May 29. “He did a good job, threw strikes,” Farrell said. “He seemed to attack lefties and righties both. He was starting to get his feet on the ground for a young guy.” However, Wilson took the loss Thursday, allowing a run on three hits over 2⅔ innings. Aceves and PawSox righthander Rubby De La Rosa are candidates to be the 26th man for Tuesday’s doubleheader. The player picked would start one of the games . . . Jonny Gomes hasn’t started a game since Saturday as the Red Sox face a series of righthanded starters. The Orioles have three righthanders scheduled in the series and Farrell said he would look for a good matchup for Gomes to get a start.