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Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew wants to be his own man in Boston

Stephen Drew believes his defense improved after his long rehab from an ankle injury.
Stephen Drew believes his defense improved after his long rehab from an ankle injury.carlos osorio/associated press

Stephen Drew, the new shortstop of the Red Sox, will wear No. 7. It’s the same number his brother, J.D. Drew, wore during the five years he played in Boston.

J.D. Drew, who retired after the 2011 season, had an exasperating tenure in the eyes of many Boston fans. Although he statistically was one of the best right fielders in the game and performed well in the postseason, Drew missed more than 200 games because of frequent stints on the disabled list.

Drew was steadfast in his plate discipline, content to let pitches pass even in critical situations. He did not feel a $70 million contract came with an obligation to try to hit more home runs.

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Unlike some of his more demonstrative teammates, Drew also kept his emotions tightly wrapped while on the field. That did not always play well in Boston, a city that treasures fiery personalities.

Stephen Drew is proud of his family, and justifiably so. He, J.D, and middle brother Tim, a righthanded pitcher, were all first-round draft picks out of the small town of Valdosta, Ga.

But during a conference call Thursday, Stephen Drew made it a point to say that he is not his brother.

“You guys know J.D., kind of laid-back,” he said. “I’m laid-back but probably hold a little more emotion on my shoulder.

“I told people coming into it, J.D. plays right field; I play shortstop. I’ve got a little more pressure playing in the middle of the infield and kind of dealt with that.

“I’ve always been under my two older brothers. It’s nothing new to me. At the same time, I look at J.D. as a role model for me. I always have.”

Drew will not be throwing bats around — he feels it’s a bad example for young players, especially his two sons — but will show how he feels in ways his brother chose not to.

“I think I share my emotion,” he said. “I’ve always been geared to play the game. I love to play the game. I respect J.D. I think I look up to him a lot and learned things from him that have always been with me. But at the same time, we’re totally different players.”

Drew is actually more closely following the example of another former Red Sox player. Like Adrian Beltre in 2010, he hopes to revive his career by playing in Fenway Park.

Drew severely fractured his right ankle on July 20, 2010, his spikes getting caught in the dirt when he slid into the plate during a game against Milwaukee. His foot bent at a gruesome angle, fracturing his fibula and causing extensive ligament damage.

He had surgery, which included plates being inserted into the fibula, and was in a non-weight-bearing cast for 12 long weeks.

Drew did not come off the disabled list until June 27, 2012. He hit .193 for Arizona before being traded to Oakland Aug. 20.

Before he returned, Drew was sharply criticized by Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick.

“I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now, frankly,” Kendrick said in early June. “I, for one, am disappointed. I’m going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than on going out and supporting the team that’s paying his salary.”

Until the injury, Drew had played in 90 percent of Arizona’s games after making his major league debut in 2005. He had only two previous trips to the disabled list. He hit .270 with a .773 OPS for Arizona before the injury.

When he came back, Drew wasn’t the same.

“I came back a little too soon, which I knew, because they wanted me out on the field,” he said. “I was doing the best I could to come back as fast as possible.”

Drew hit .263 with a .752 OPS for Oakland in September, hitting five home runs and driving in 14 runs in 29 games to help the Athletics make the playoffs.

“Getting to go to Oakland that last month — believe it or not, I know it sounds crazy — but I think my defense was probably better than it’s ever been,” Drew said. “I felt like my lateral [movement] and kind of the timing of it got really, really good.”

Now Drew will try to rebuild his value in Boston on a one-year deal worth $9.5 million. Beltre, also a client of agent Scott Boras, hit .321 for the Sox in 2010 with 28 homers and 102 RBIs. That led to a five-year, $80 million deal with Texas.

“The need for shortstops is so great, and then when you add in Stephen’s swing plane and his offensive metrics — where he hits the ball in Fenway — we really felt that was kind of a match made for what strengths Stephen has as a hitter and what the ballpark in Boston provides,” Boras said.

“We fully expect a very successful season, and I think it’s going to give the Red Sox [and] the Red Sox fans a chance to see that. I’m not sure everyone really understands the talent level of Stephen Drew.

“I think after this year, I think everyone is going to think a lot different about what type of player Stephen is and the impact he can have on a division-contending team.”

Boras said Drew has more power in his swing and has become a better defender after the long rehab work on his ankle. He also believes playing with Dustin Pedroia at second base will be a benefit.

“It was a very attractive opportunity,” said Boras. “Putting two players of that talent level together up the middle on the field, I just think this is going to help the team offensively, defensively, and it’s really going to illustrate the talents of both these players.

“I think both are going to play at premiums this year.”

Said Drew, “I think I’m a good fit in Boston. It’s going to be fun playing with Pedroia.

“I’ve played against him, but to actually get to play with a good second baseman is going to a really good opportunity for me.”

Drew said his ankle is “tremendous” and that he’s having a normal offseason. After the tumult of the last two seasons, he’s ready to move on.

That he’s coming to Boston is much more related to the opportunity than any connection to his brother.

“At the end of the day, me and J.D., I’m a different person than J.D. and J.D. is different than me,” said Drew, who can only hope the fans see it the same way.

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