|J.D. DREW Taking to fifth|
Nothing changed for J.D. Drew. Nothing in his offseason workout program, nothing in getting ready for yet another move and yet another city. Nothing, except for more than seven weeks, he wasn't technically signed. But now, with all that minor contract language worked out between his agent, Scott Boras, and the Boston brass, Drew is officially a member of the Red Sox, ready to bat fifth behind David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez and cover right field and accept $70 million over the next five years.
As long as his right shoulder holds up, of course.
"Extremely confident," the 31-year-old said about his shoulder during a teleconference yesterday. "The thing that was really beneficial was to see where it was at the end of last season [with the Dodgers], to see the swing and everything kind of come back around as far as the strength and power numbers go. Those were telltale signs for me. This offseason's been a great chance for me to catch up on the strength gains and get a lot of work in."
Despite the out clauses the Red Sox built into the contract for the free agent, Boras emphasized that it should be treated "for all intents and purposes as a $70 million contract" rather than the three-year, $42 million pact it could become. If Drew spends a certain amount of time on the disabled list in either the third or fourth season for an injury related to the surgery he underwent in September 2005 to repair a torn labrum, the fourth and/or fifth years of the deal can be voided.
Both Boras and general manager Theo Epstein declined to discuss specific contract language.
"From the day we agreed on this contract, a couple months ago now, both sides knew this was going to get done," Epstein said about the 52-day delay between the announcement by Boras and the official signing by the Red Sox. "When any variable is introduced, I think it's the responsibility of both sides to sit down and find a fair agreement that works for both sides. It was a minor issue, but something we wanted to get right, and when lawyers get involved, sometimes things take longer than they would have otherwise."
As the lawyers and agents and Red Sox management worked on language, Drew -- who during his surgery had holes drilled into the shoulder blade to facilitate cartilage growth -- continued his normal offseason program. He worked out, toured Boston in December to scout houses, and thought about what hitting behind Ortiz and Ramírez could do for both the team and his personal stats. Between his partners in the 3-4-5 portion of the order and that looming Wall, Drew anticipates a sweet tenure in his new home, where both his career hits are home runs (in nine at-bats).
"Those two guys are pretty phenomenal hitters," Drew said. "I think it's fun for anybody in the league to get a chance to watch them. I'll be glad to get a chance to hit behind them with those guys on base and watch them from the on-deck circle. Great hitters in the league, and I'm going to try to pick their brains a little bit."
As for how Drew, whose desire and intensity have been questioned, will enjoy playing in the fishbowl that is Boston, he tried to assure the fans that their enthusiasm will only help him, will only make him play harder. He contrasted their passion with the sometimes lackluster support in Atlanta.
"That's where you get home-field advantage," Drew said. "Not to take anything away from Atlanta -- I really enjoyed playing there -- [but] sometimes the fan base, even when we played against the Red Sox when I was there, there was 70 percent Red Sox fans. It was tough a lot of times. I think you hear a lot of criticism from the Braves players, especially when the playoffs roll around and the stadium's not sold out and things like that.
"Those are tough situations for a player, because that atmosphere every night's not electric. I think that's going to carry over. It's going to be a lot of fun to play in."
Drew's signing leaves one issue for the Sox before pitchers and catchers report -- signing arbitration-eligible Wily Mo Peña. "There have been a lot of discussions," Epstein said. "We're not necessarily knocking on the door of an agreement, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. We're hoping to get something done to avoid arbitration."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.