ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Stephen Drew missed nearly all of spring training with a concussion that forced him to start the season on the disabled list. By the end of April, he was hitting only .154.
That made him an easy target for criticism from those ignorant of the steady production over the course of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Drew then proved himself in Boston, hitting .273 with an .824 OPS from June 1 on.
Drew finished the season as one of the most productive shortstops in the American League. He also ranked as one of the best defenders in the league. Drew committed only eight errors in 124 games and had a 5.3 Ultimate Zone Rating, sixth in the league.
That dependability continued in the first two games of the Division Series against the Rays. Drew singled in a run and scored in Game 1 against the Rays Friday. On Saturday, Drew had an RBI triple and turned two double plays.
Drew hit only .196 against lefthanders this season. But manager John Farrell started him against Matt Moore and David Price.
“If there is an underappreciation, it’s probably outside of our clubhouse,” Farrell said. “He’s a very good player. He’s a very sound defender, an above-average defender. We know that there’s been struggles against some lefthanded pitching in the past, but [Saturday night] him starting against David Price was . . . a clear decision.”
Right fielder J.D. Drew, one of Stephen’s older brothers, played for the Red Sox from 2007-11. While an effective player, J.D. Drew played with little outward emotion or personality.
Stephen is not as demonstrative as some, but is clearly part of the clubhouse gang this season, growing a beard and shaving lines into the back of his head. He even enjoys trash-talking with Dustin Pedroia.
“For me, this year is huge because I’ve enjoyed the team so much,” Drew said. “Everybody gets along. Life from Day 1 in spring training is the same as it is now, coming out and playing hard. Everybody’s goal is winning.”
On the field, Drew is thrilled with the infield’s chemistry.
“It’s pretty unbelievable, to be honest,” he said. “We talk about things, what balls you can get to and making it easier. We cover ground a lot more. You kind of use your experience. You can have a chart but during games we’re always changing things.”
Drew is proud of what he has done this season.
“I’ve had a lot of experience and I just go about my business, playing hard,” he said. “People question the ability to play short and I’ve never questioned myself. I kind of thrive off that. People realize now. They come ask me, ‘I didn’t know you were this good.’
“Not to toot my own horn, but playing in Arizona in kind of a smaller market, it’s kind of unfortunate. It doesn’t matter to me. It matters to me about my team and coming out and preparing and I think I do a good job of that.”
Jonny Gomes started in left field the first two games against the Tampa Bay lefties. With Alex Cobb starting Monday, Daniel Nava will start in left field. It will be his playoff debut.
Nava did play in the independent Golden League playoffs in 2007. He and the Chico Outlaws faced the Long Beach Armada.
Nava joked that 400 fans attended the games and that the champagne came from Costco.
“It was still fun,” he said.
Running Red Sox
The Red Sox are 3 for 3 in stolen bases in the series and have been successful in 42 consecutive attempts dating to Aug. 9.
“Base running is an integral part of our maybe diverse approach to try to score runs,” Farrell said. “How we create runs, pressure we’ll put on the opposition, it was a building block in spring training as we approached the start of the regular season.
“At the outset we weren’t afraid to make mistakes in spring training. We had to find our limits. And once we found the limits of the individual players, then we could kind of work and adjust accordingly.”
In a bit of gamesmanship, the Red Sox do not play music on the public address system when opposing teams take batting practice at Fenway Park. The Rays have retaliated over the years with either silence or by playing classical music. With no tunes on Sunday, Game 3 starter Clay Buchholz hooked his iPhone up to a portable speaker and set it next to the batting cage when the Red Sox worked out . . . David Ortiz took batting practice with an aluminum bat and sent several balls crashing into the wall behind the bleachers in right field.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.