FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox didn’t think anything was wrong when Stephen Drew was hit in the head by a pitch from Minnesota’s Caleb Thielbar March 7.
The ball seemed to glance off his helmet and Drew went to first base without any delay. He later scored and stayed in the game for another two innings.
“That? It was nothing,” Drew said that day as he left the park.
But that night, as Drew was reading a book, he noticed the words were out of focus. Team doctors determined the next day that he had a concussion.
The shortstop has not played in a game since, and on Sunday manager John Farrell admitted that Drew is not likely to be ready for Opening Day against the Yankees on April 1.
“We thought this was going to be a couple of days thing at the most and at the time he was hit, never even thought twice about it,” Farrell said. “But here we are 10 days later and we’re still in the same situation.”
Drew stretched with his teammates on the field and played catch. But he has not been cleared to take batting practice.
Drew spoke to reporters last week and expressed hope of getting back on the field quickly. But he since has told Farrell that his vision is “wavy” when he moves quickly or turns his head quickly.
Drew has had an MRI and has been in contact with Dr. Michael “Mickey” Collins, the director of the Sports Concussion Program at the Center for Sports Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“He’s in daily communication with [Collins],” Farrell said. “The symptoms are described; the physical testing he goes through. This is one of those that time has got to be given for those symptoms to subside.”
The only positive for Drew has been that his symptoms do not get worse when he elevates his heart rate with exercise.
“But at the same time, he’s not ready to get back in a game,” Farrell said.
Under Major League Baseball rules, teams must follow a strict set of protocols with players who have concussions. Players must first pass a test administered by MLB’s medical staff before being cleared to play.
Drew has played in only six Grapefruit League games and had 16 at-bats.
With the Red Sox having only 13 days left of spring training, the odds of him being cleared to play and ready for the opener are slim.
“When those symptoms are fully subsided is when he starts to ramp things up more intently and we’re not there yet,” Farrell said. “At some point you start to look at we’re getting to this last stage of camp. You have to start thinking about all the options.
“We haven’t made any official change to the shortstop position. But everyone that’s in camp will be part of that discussion.”
Drew’s injury has created an opening Jose Iglesias could readily fill. The 23-year-old has played 86 innings at shortstop in camp, by far the most of any player. He also has shown improvement at the plate.
Iglesias was 0 for 3 in Sunday’s 5-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. He was thrown out trying to bunt for a hit, struck out, and lined to left field.
Iglesias is hitting .220 in spring training, but has shown a better approach at the plate, standing more upright and hitting the ball with greater authority.
“He’s done a good job,” Farrell said. “We talked about his set up in the box in the early part of camp. We’ve seen more consistent hard contact. He can’t be totally measured in the batting average but he’s looked aggressive at the plate.
“You look at hard contact. There have been a number of outs when he’s driven the ball to right field and center field with more authority than he finished up with last year. The adjustments he’s undertaken have shown up in the game. I think it’s a more confident hitter who stands in the box right now than was the case last year.”
Iglesias has six extra-base hits in 41 at-bats in spring training. He had three in 68 at-bats with the Red Sox last season and only 11 in 353 at-bats with Triple A Pawtucket.
“I think it’s getting better for me every day. I feel more confident,” Iglesias said. “I don’t know what is going on with [Drew]. I just come every day and try to be a better player.”
Pedro Ciriaco, who added a spark to the Red Sox last season, also can play shortstop.
“He enters the conversation,” Farrell said.
But Ciriaco has missed the last three days with back spasms and won’t play against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.
“It’s still not right,” Ciriaco said. “I might be able to hit [on Monday].”
Ciriaco also could be more valuable to the Red Sox as a bench player given his defensive versatility.
The other option would be Brock Holt, a 24-year-old middle infielder obtained from the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan deal.Continued...