CLEVELAND — You’re building for 162 games, not just a seven-game winning streak, so forget this notion that Stephen Drew messes up karma. Nonsense.
You can never have enough good talent on a team. So you have to move 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts to third, so what? Two weeks ago, the Red Sox signed Drew because the left side of their infield had yet to stabilize. And then Brock Holt started playing like Brooks Robinson and Bogaerts like Cal Ripken.
The Red Sox now have infield depth, and that gives them options, including moving Holt to first base or the outfield.
Drew, 31, made Boston’s defense airtight in 2013. As spectacular as Jose Iglesias was both at shortstop and at third, Drew was incredibly steady. He was a stabilizer, and pitchers loved the fact Drew would never mess up a play behind them.
That same feeling wasn’t prevalent with Bogaerts at the start of this season. His defensive UZR rating was minus-0.2 for most of his time at shortstop, but that improved after he made two errors the day the Red Sox signed Drew.
Drew recalls being in the same position with the Diamondbacks when he came up in 2006. And so he retold that story to Bogaerts, who isn’t exactly embracing third base as his permanent position. The Red Sox first told Bogaerts he would occasionally play shortstop when Drew sits. Now, Bogaerts will stay at third base, with Holt or Jonathan Herrera filling in at short.
“I talked to him, just me and him personally,’’ Drew said of Bogaerts, a fellow Scott Boras client, Monday afternoon. “I was kind of in the same boat in Arizona with Craig Counsell when I was coming up. Hopefully, it will make the team better; that’s the reason why they looked at it. Going back to last year, he played really well at third. It’s not that he can’t play short. It just makes the club better.
“We’re fine. I’ve talked to him. I know what it felt like when I was that age. I gave him my advice there. We’re on the same page.’’
Drew took over as Arizona’s everyday shortstop in 2007. Counsell was gone.
When Drew took his position Monday night, he was wearing new glasses. He had started wearing them to correct an astigmatism that bothers him more at night. Drew said contact lenses tend to dry out his eyes and make his vision blurry. Last postseason, when he went 6 for 54, Drew wasn’t wearing contacts for that reason, but it also made it hard for him to follow pitches. Right before the final game of the World Series, he got new lenses, and then he homered.
“I’m going to try to get acclimated with [the glasses], see how it goes,’’ he said. “I’m gonna try to play with them all the time. Being in the field, you don’t want blurriness.”
That’s what the Red Sox infield was for a quite a while this season — a blur.
“First and foremost, Stephen Drew up-to-full-game speed is a damn good player,” said manager John Farrell. “We’ve got a versatile roster to help us get to that point. We’re getting better by the day with his addition. Like I said, we’ll make sure we take necessary steps where he’s unrestricted in terms of games played. I’m not looking to build in days off.”
Drew, who took heat for turning down a $14.1 million qualifying offer, will be paid a prorated number of that same amount, about $10.2 million.
Because he signed after the season, he no longer is eligible for a qualifying offer. He is no longer a free agent linked to draft-pick compensation.
If the Red Sox fall out of contention, he could be a prime trade candidate who could bring prospects in return.
“I’m just excited to be out with these guys,’” Drew said before the game. “From Day 1, I’ve just been preparing myself for here. I’ve never been in this situation. The good thing is I know this team and they know me.”
Dustin Pedroia is ecstatic to have his double-play partner back. They turned one to get out of the second inning, started by Drew, who was part of three double plays on the night. Drew then walked in his first plate appearance in the bottom of the second. He finished 0 for 2 in the 3-2 loss.
How far is Drew from being in top baseball shape?
“My goal was to see as many pitches as I could see [in the minors] — to see every pitch possible. There’ll be an adjustment up here because the game is different,” Drew said.
With the Sox finding their stride in the last week, Drew also avoids the burden of being pegged as a savior after the team’s 10-game losing streak.
“It’s good. I’m just glad the team is back on track a little bit,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you’re 0-10, but it could have been different because along the way you hit a ball hard right at someone with runners in scoring position. Those types of things can turn and I’ve been watching them lately and it seems to have.”
Drew knows he’s about three months behind everyone else. He will make no excuses for being rusty, but, “I literally tried to do as much as I could at home and practicing in Miami and at [Valdosta State in Georgia]. I had the three or four games in Greenville and then Pawtucket.
“I need a few games to get acclimated and get up to the speed of the game up here.”
Farrell acknowledged, “Initially, we’re still in the building phase of games played and repetition to it. To say that he’ll get back and go every day might be a little aggressive at this point, but we’ll look to pick our spots where there’s the best matchup. But we’ve added a very good player to our roster who is going to make us better.”
Drew turned another double play in the third, making the turn on a 3-6-3 with Holt. The batter was initially ruled safe, but after review the call was reversed. Drew was involved in a third DP in the fifth.
“I take a lot of pride in my throwing,” Drew said. “It’s something I’ve worked hard on my entire career.”
That’s what he does. He gets pitchers out of innings. It’s called talent. And the Red Sox have added some to their infield.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.