For five straight months, Stephen Drew started his days at 9 a.m.
He was unattached, dangling in free agency after winning a World Series with the Red Sox last year and spurning a qualifying offer from them.
The market wasn’t as kind as he hoped, and when the season started, he was still unsigned.
If the right call came, though, he didn’t want it to catch him unprepared.
So for seven days a week — either under the blistering sun at Valdosta State in Georgia or St. Thomas University in Florida — he hit, he threw, he took ground balls.
“Eighty ground balls a day,” he said. “By myself.”
He ran the bases, he worked out, doing it all with game situations in mind.
“I really tried to think about what it would be like,” he said. “It’s a tough position. I know I worked hard. I know there’s nothing I have to worry about there. I put all the time I needed to be ready for this moment because I knew it would happen quick.”
He didn’t know how quick. And he didn’t know where.
Although the Red Sox extended Drew a qualifying offer, talks with the Sox had gone dark for a while.
Then on Friday, the wheels started turning. A fractured right index finger would force Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks to the disabled list, leaving the left side of the infield thin.
With the Sox under .500 and next-to-last in the AL East, general manager Ben Cherington began looking more aggressively for ways to make his team deeper.
Drew said he heard from the Red Sox Sunday.
“Maybe I’m wrong,” Drew said. “I’ve been getting days wrong because of packing up in about and hour and getting here.”
It took three days for them to come to a one-year, $10.2 million deal.
He arrived at Fenway Park Wednesday for the first time since October, thrown abruptly into the mix, looking to help a team still in the thick of a division race despite its early struggles.
“I believe in my talent,” Drew said. “I just needed to be prepared for this. I hold myself accountable for this organization, myself, to be ready when the moment comes and I can truly say I’m ready to go.”
Drew was added to the active roster, though he will have a minor league assignment to start.
Reaching an agreement with Drew two months into the season came down to a matter of timing, Cherington said.
“Sometimes motivations have to align and we were fortunate that they did at this point with Stephen,” Cherington said. “Our opinion on Stephen, our position on Stephen as a player, as a person and as a teammate never changed. It didn’t change at all since the day after last season.
“It just so happened that now is the time where it was able to all come together and we were able to add a very good infielder to the team and we hope that we’ve made the team stronger in doing so.”
Drew had to accept a prorated version of the $14.1 million offer he rejected in the fall, costing him $3.9 million. But the chance to see what was available in free agency was important to him. Of course, a team signing him would have forfeited a draft pick to the Red Sox, and that seemed to be a hindrance.
“All I wanted to do was in the offseason be a true free agent,” Drew said. “With that draft pick, I guess that draft pick was a huge, huge part in that. So yes, it was hard, but at the same time it’s one of those deals where I really wanted to be a true free agent at the end of this year.”
Getting Drew back in the picture raises questions about Xander Bogaerts, who had been tapped as the shortstop of the future after hitting .296 last postseason.
He played third base last year and will go back there again, but Cherington said the Sox haven’t lost faith in Bogaerts as the long-term shortstop. Bogaerts is hitting .270 this season, though he has struggled for stretches this month. He also has shown growing pains at shortstop, committing six errors, including two in Tuesday night’s loss to the Blue Jays.
“We believe Xander can play shortstop and play it well,” Cherington said. “We’ve seen, even I think over the last two or three weeks, that his defense at shortstop stabilized.
“He certainly has worked hard at it. I know he made a couple errors last night, but we believed last year in the offseason and in spring training he could play short and we still believe that.
“This move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short. We’re just trying to make the team better. We’re trying to strengthen the roster, and in fact Xander’s ability to play short and third allowed us to consider different options, different alternatives to do that.
“Stephen just ended up being the one that made the most sense to us to pursue.”
The move also raised question about Middlebrooks, who is on the disabled list for the second time this season after missing nearly half of last season with injuries that led to inconsistency at the plate.
“We’ve got to get him healthy first, and we know there’s going to be some time,” Cherington said. “We’re talking weeks, not days, to get him healthy and get him back playing. So that’s the first step.
“The way we see it, if Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, and Will Middlebrooks are all healthy and playing up to their capability, then we’ve got a very good offense on the left side of the infield. And that makes us a better team. So that would be the optimal scenario.
“We know that when he’s healthy and doing the things he’s capable of, there aren’t many third basemen in the big leagues that can do what he does. So we’re absolutely committed to trying to help him, and he’s committed to getting to that point.
“So along the way, we’re just trying to build the best team we can and our hope certainly is that Will’s a part of it.”
Even if manager John Farrell were to call on him in the next two days, Drew said, he could step in and contribute. But he knows he needs to play games to complete the process.
“The biggest issue will be just nine innings,” Drew said. “I haven’t had that in seven months, since the World Series ended. So just a few games there. Get some at-bats.
“I’ve been having ABs. That’s been good, to be able to have some pitching down there. So I think the biggest thing is just playing on my feet for nine innings for about nine or 10 days.”
After playing a months-long waiting game, Drew is finally in a position to play games that count.
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “But needless to say, I’m glad to be back in a Red Sox uniform and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”