BALTIMORE — The quiet, polite Red Sox shortstop is the most controversial guy on the team. With the S.S. John Henry sinking slowly in the American League East, Stephen Drew is sports talk radio gold.
Stephen Drew . . . the new Cooler . . . brother of J. D. . . . The guy who bounced Xander Bogaerts, a.k.a. “greatest prospect ever” off shortstop . . . the guy who singlehandedly snapped a seven-game Red Sox winning streak and turned it into a five-game losing streak . . . the guy who was forced on Boston’s baseball ops by bully Larry Lucchino . . . the guy who is only here because “media manipulation” (thanks, Gammons) pressured the Sox to bring him back to Boston.
There’s more. Drew is the guy who drove Sox fans crazy last October when he went 4 for 39 against the Tigers and Cardinals in the postseason. Drew is the Scott Boras client who turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer, then wound up returning for a prorated portion of the same deal.
After working out on his own in Florida and Georgia (Valdosta State) for the first two months of this season, Drew returned to the then-scalding Sox last Monday and went 1 for 14 (.071) while the Sox lost five of six. He started four games and was “rested” against lefthanded starters. Then came Sunday night when manager John Farrell sent the immortal Jonathan Herrera up to bat for Drew against a lefty reliever. Wow.
Just when you thought this couldn’t get any worse, the Sox announced that Drew is suffering from a right oblique muscle strain and is “day to day.’’ Herrera started at short Monday night against Orioles righty Bud Norris.
The takeaway from all of the above is a chorus of critics, all asking, “Why did the Sox do this? They insulted and uprooted Xander Bogaerts . . . for this?’’
I hunted down Drew in the Sox clubhouse Monday afternoon. No easy task. Like his big brother, Stephen Drew is rarely at his locker. He does not call attention to himself.
He is also secure in his skill set and impervious to the attacks of shock jocks, columnists, and Twittering cowboys. I told him he was a big topic back home.
“People are gonna say what they are gonna say,’’ drawled Drew. “I know what I’m about and the 25 guys here know what I’m about and how hard I work, and it’s just an adjustment.
“They know that once I get adjusted, it will work out for the best. Not having spring training, these guys have three months on me and I think I’ve only got 12 at-bats.
“I’ve had some good ones and I’m making adjustments. I think I’ve already helped out defensive-wise and saving runs. It’s just a matter of time for everything to start clicking.’’
That, my friends, is a manifesto from a Drew brother.
Even in a world in which this turns out well for the Red Sox, one still questions the meteoric speed with which Drew was brought to the majors. He played only seven minor league games, getting 23 plate appearances before he was summoned.
“No,’’ said the mild-mannered infielder. “Like I said before, it’s just one of those things that happened. Hopefully in the next day or two, it will calm down and we’ll be ready to go.
“It’s just a strain, so we’re just trying to take it day by day. I took an awkward swing in my third at-bat so I’m trying to let it calm down and then go from there.’’
“You don’t have the time to build a physical foundation as you would in spring training,’’ said Farrell. “In spring training, you can give it a couple of days and get over it. That’s not the case here.’’
Not many folks are neutral on the return of Drew. Lines have been drawn and rumors have taken life.
Sox assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran, with the team in Baltimore, denied the theory that the re-signing of Drew was done against the wishes of Ben Cherington’s baseball operations department.
“That’s completely ridiculous and unfounded,’’ said O’Halloran. “We, collectively — which is baseball ops, ownership — we felt that the right thing to do for this team, under the circumstances after Will [Middlebrooks] got hurt, was to sign Stephen, and we’re glad that we did.
“Hopefully we’ll start winning and people will see that we’re a better team having Stephen on it and having the additional talent and depth.
“I can understand the timing of it, with the losing streak and all, why people would talk about it. But I think over time our fans will see, as they did last year, that Stephen will help us win games and makes us a better team.
“We’re happy to have Stephen on this team.’’
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org