Drew and Youkilis hit it off in the minors

Stars start rehab with Pawtucket

By Jim Mandelaro
Globe Correspondent / August 31, 2011

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew found themselves in a familiar situation last night: Playing for the Red Sox against a New York rival in the heat of a pennant race.

But there was a twist to this tale. While Boston was taking on the Yankees at Fenway Park, Youkilis and Drew were six hours away in Western New York, trying to help another first-place Red Sox club inch toward the postseason.

The two Boston stars began a short rehab stint for Pawtucket against the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins’ top farm team, before a sellout crowd of 10,890 at Frontier Field. Rochester won, 8-6.

Drew, batting second and playing right field, went 3 for 3 (all singles) before being removed in the bottom of the fifth. He scored in the fifth.

“It felt really good,’’ Drew said. “I tried to simplify things: just see the ball. All in all, it was a good night.’’

Youkilis, batting third as the designated hitter, went 1 for 4 and drew a walk. It could have been 2 for 4. Youkilis lined a shot off the glove of third baseman Chase Lambin that rolled into left field in the ninth, but it was ruled an error.

Youkilis also scored in the fifth, when Pawtucket rallied from a 6-0 deficit with four runs.

“It felt good to get back on a baseball field,’’ said Youkilis, who had not played since going on the disabled list Aug. 18 with a strained lower back. He is eligible to join the Sox Friday.

“I got my baseball legs under me. I was a little rusty at first, but it felt good. Passing the physical test [of playing in a game] was key.’’

Youkilis is hitting .266 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs for Boston. The Sox primarily have been using Jed Lowrie at third base in his absence.

Drew has missed the past five weeks with a left shoulder impingement. He was scheduled to play two games for Single A Lowell last weekend, but Hurricane Irene got in the way. Drew was 0 for 2 with a walk Friday, but with heavy rain in the forecast he worked out with the Red Sox at Fenway over the weekend before joining the PawSox in Rochester.

This is the right fielder’s first minor league experience since he began the 2003 season on rehab with Single A Palm Beach (Cardinals) after recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Drew has struggled this season with the Red Sox, hitting .219 with 4 home runs and 21 RBIs in 77 games. He is scheduled to be activated this week. Major league rosters expand from 25 to 40 Thursday.

“They did all right,’’ PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler said about his rehabbing big leaguers. “They got some hits, ran the bases. J.D. made a running catch down the line. I was pleased.’’

Beyeler said Drew will DH tonight and Youkilis will play third.

Pawtucket began the night two games ahead of Lehigh Valley in the International League North. The season ends Labor Day.

Rochester is Yankee Country first and foremost, but there’s a strong Red Sox sentiment. Those fans came out in earnest last night, some wearing jerseys with Youkilis’s name.

Former Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon signed autographs before the game and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Youkilis did his part as well, signing patiently for dozens of fans down the left-field line before the game.

Despite solid games from Drew and Youkilis, the PawSox fell to the worst team in Triple A. Brian Dinkelman drilled a three-run homer off Greg Smith in Rochester’s five-run first, and Jair Fernandez made it 8-4 with a two-run shot off Jason Rice in the sixth. Fernandez, the No. 9 hitter, swung at a 3-0 pitch.

Smith signed with Boston as a free agent Aug. 18 after being released by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

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