Shoulder got to be a grind

With clean joint, Drew’s operative word is optimism

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / February 25, 2010

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FORT MYERS, Fla. - It was J.D. Drew’s kids who spotted the deer in New Mexico. They saw some big ones, the type that make Drew reach for his weapon, after they had touched down on a trip to see his wife’s family. But the Drews made one error. Having told the kids that they were headed to the North Pole - rather than the mundane Southwest - they ended up paying a price.

“I told him, ‘Get my bow and arrow, there’s a big deer,’ ’’ Drew said. “ ‘No, Dad. It’s Rudolph.’

“OK, no problem. Can’t shoot Rudolph. That was off-limits for me right there.’’

That might have been one of the more exciting moments for Drew in an offseason spent in a hometown (Hahira, Ga.) whose population has recently topped 1,000. He ran around after the kids, took that trip to New Mexico - oh, and had left shoulder surgery.

After taking two cortisone shots in the second half of last season, the latter just before the postseason, Drew thought he wouldn’t need more work on the shoulder once the season was over. He thought he would simply rest, and the discomfort would go away. But around Thanksgiving, Drew called trainer Mike Reinold to tell him that the shoulder was, in fact, getting worse.

“From the way I swing the bat, I keep my top hand on the bat quite a bit, so over the years it’s probably just wear and tear of those bones hitting together, building up bone spurs,’’ Drew said. “I had some times where there were days when it was a lot worse than others. The worst part of it was the batting cage and doing your work, early work stuff, repetition of swinging the bat, kind of got it aggravated.

“There were times in the cage with [Dave Magadan] where I would swing and say, ‘All right, I’m done, this is getting too aggravated for me to go out there and play the game.’ So I would shut it down.’’

Once the Sox clinched a postseason spot, Drew went to manager Terry Francona to let him know how bad the shoulder had gotten. He took his second injection, missed a couple of games, and then played in the Sox’ brief foray into the playoffs. Then, eventually, he had the surgery.

Instead of going with an arthroscopic procedure, which would have been less invasive, Drew elected to have Dr. Thomas Gill cut into his shoulder to clean out some bone spurs on the AC joint. Had Gill performed the scope, he would have explored other areas of Drew’s shoulder (like the rotator cuff), which would have extended the recovery period by a few weeks. Drew wasn’t interested in that. His shoulder wasn’t bothering him in other areas, and he didn’t want to have unnecessary surgery.

The surgery restricted his workouts until early January, and he couldn’t hit until the end of the month. That, though, is fairly close to Drew’s schedule, so he said yesterday that he doesn’t feel he was especially limited this offseason.

But those looking for Drew on the fields at the Sox minor league complex were mostly out of luck yesterday, the often elusive right fielder keeping to himself inside a building. He had dispensation for the no-show, as the Sox are taking a long-haul view, especially in the early days of spring training.

“We told J.D. that the more he’s on the field, the better team we are,’’ Francona said. “He understands that. So it’s my responsibility, our responsibility, to if he needs a day off, give him one before it turns into four.’’

Despite the two shots, Drew said the injury wasn’t a major problem for him last season. He played in 137 games and was a force in the latter portion of the season, even as he was suffering with the AC joint.

“There may [have been] some times during the season where I was affected playing with it, but not really that much,’’ Drew said. “The second half of the year, I felt like I was swinging the bat as good as at any point in the year. Had a good little thing going. Hopefully I can pick up where that left off, get back into that rhythm, just kind of keep that rolling.

“The bone spurs were just kind of a nagging thing, something that once the game started, adrenaline got going, you didn’t really think about it when you’ve got a guy out there throwing 90-plus miles an hour. You had to make contact.’’

In fact, Drew hit .355 with a 1.106 OPS after coming back from the All-Star Game with an 0-for-22 streak. He had 12 home runs and 30 RBIs. And that’s even with the shoulder issues.

“There’s things that go on during the baseball season that people don’t realize, and that was a thing that was not necessarily threatening the year, but it was just one of those aggravating things that you’ve got to deal with,’’ Drew said. “The shots helped alleviate some of that, but it was nice to get it taken care of so I don’t have to worry about it.

“But I asked Gill after the surgery was over, he said, ‘Yeah, I’m glad we did it when we did because you wouldn’t have made it through the year.’

“So it was good to get it knocked out.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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