ARLINGTON, Texas - As J.D. Drew signed autographs after taking batting practice yesterday, there was something notable about the scene - Drew was standing upright. He could still walk, and the stiffness hadn't returned to his lower back.
He reported he felt good, that there was no setback, even though it was the first time he had taken batting practice and tracked down balls in the outfield since reinjuring his back.
Earlier in the week, the back had gotten so bad Drew almost couldn't get up from the chiropractor's table, and spent one night hobbling around the clubhouse.
"It cracked, popped here and there, [the chiropractor] was like, 'get up and see how it feels,' " Drew said. "I was like, 'I can't get up, just give me a second.'
"I think he was a little concerned that he messed me up really bad. He asked me three or four times as the night went along, 'Are you feeling better? Are you OK?' I was like, it's not your fault. This happens. Any time I try to do anything to aggressively treat the injury it kind of held up on me. Fortunately when I woke up it felt better. I was able to hit the next day."
The setback occurred before a game at home earlier this week when Drew hit in the cage, then attempted batting practice. He got as far as putting on his practice jersey and, jogging from the stairs to the dugout, the back locked up on him.
"It's to the point where I'm really anxious to get out there and do baseball stuff on the field," Drew said. "I'm anxious to play in a game. I'm not super excited, as far as I've still got a little bit of stuff going on back there. Hopefully maybe doing some stuff on the field, playing through it, [it will] disappear. I hope it just doesn't flare back up."
Drew said he will try to face live batting practice today, likely off David Aardsma.
"We'll kind of see where he is," manager Terry Francona said. "He said it seems like he takes a step forward and then one back. So we'll just see where he's at. I think he's hoping that he's only maybe a couple, three days away. Until it goes away, we'll just deal with it."
Casey returnsThough Sean Casey was not in the lineup, with Mark Kotsay manning first base in Kevin Youkilis's absence, he was certainly happy to be off the disabled list. Casey joined Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett in being activated before the game. Casey had been battling a stiff neck since Aug. 19.
"As far as playing, I'm 100 percent," Casey said. "I don't feel anything right now. You just don't want anything to come back. I was going stir-crazy.
"This is what it's all about. You're playing the whole year to be in this spot in September. Being in this situation, in a pennant race down the stretch, we play Tampa Bay so many times. It's a lot of fun. I'm excited just to be a part of it."
Casey said he'd essentially been in traction in trying to come back from bulging disks, with the training staff putting him in a neck brace to rid him of the pain and stiffness.
Youkilis missed Tuesday's and Wednesday's games against the Orioles with lower back spasms. He has missed four of the last five games after having flu-like symptoms in addition to the back trouble.
He got treatment in Boston Thursday, then remained at home to attend to a personal matter. Youkilis is expected to arrive in Texas today.
Asked if Youkilis would have been in the lineup yesterday, Francona said, "I think so."