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ON BASEBALL

Drew keeping faith

New Sox outfielder is ready for action

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- J.D. Drew is well aware of what's been said and written about him in advance of his arrival in Boston, and he hopes that perception will change.

"People will just have to get to know me and my game," he said from his home in Hahira, Ga. "People think I don't care enough, which couldn't be farther from the truth. I care very deeply about the game and what ever team I've been on and how to help that team win games. I'm just quiet. I'm the type of person who keeps things inside. It's just the way I am.

"I'm not a rah-rah guy and never have been. That's not who I am. I've never been [a] show boat, or thrown my helmet or my bat or tried to upstage anyone. Maybe sometimes those types of players get the attention and I don't. I'm not going to try to be something I'm not. I try to lead by example."

He sounds a lot like Peyton Manning, with a bit of a Southern drawl, but very sure of what he's saying.

"I grew up in church all my life," he said. "My parents were very deep in their faith and that's the way our family was raised and that's the way I'm raising my family. I've always given 100 percent and been a team player. I love playing baseball. I understand the gift I've been given and I've never taken that gift for granted. Baseball is very important to me but my faith and my family come first."

Drew said he was disappointed by comments made by former manager Tony La Russa in the best-selling book "Three Nights in August," in which Drew is portrayed as an underachieving player with no fire to realize his potential.

La Russa said of Drew, "A lot of young players fall into the trap where it's uncomfortable to push yourself on a daily basis. They settle for some percent under their max. In the case of J.D., if you have the chance to be a $12 to $15 million-per-year player, you settle for 75 percent of that."

"Tony made those comments and he knew that I was playing in terrible pain with a severe case of patellar tendinitis in my knee for three years," recalled Drew, who played for La Russa in St. Louis from 1998-2003. "I came back from the injury when I was 50 percent. It was a terrible injury. I felt I gave them everything I had.

"I know it's a disappointment when a player gets injured and he can't perform. It's disappointing for everyone. But what I had was the same injury that Mark McGwire had and he just went home. For three years I was in pain. They told me that even if I had surgery I would still be only 75 percent pain-free. It's been a long road back and because I've changed my workout routines and changed some things, I've been able to manage it very well."

Asked if he ever reconciled with La Russa, Drew said, "We never discussed his comments. I always say hello to him when I see him, but for those comments to have been made are disappointing to me. It was definitely one of the more negative aspects of my career."

He also remembers his run-in with new teammate Curt Schilling, who criticized Drew for not signing with the Phillies after they selected him second overall in the 1997 amateur draft, instead playing for the independent St. Paul Saints. Schilling has since said he meant to be critical of Drew's agent, Scott Boras, not Drew.

"Me and Curt had some things to settle," Drew said. "I remember I was in the weight room one day and Curt called me and apologized for the remarks and told me what he said was uncalled for and we patched things up. I haven't talked to Curt since, but I'm looking forward to being his teammate and getting to know him better along with all the guys up there like Big Papi and Manny and Mike Lowell. It seems like a true family atmosphere up there and when we were trying to decide about coming to Boston, we took those things into consideration."

When asked about the pressures of playing in Boston and the perception he won't be able to handle it, Drew said, "What are you going to do? I've felt pressure throughout my career, mostly from the pressure I bring on myself. I discussed the Boston situation with my agents and my family and it's just fans being passionate about their team. People love baseball in Boston. They expect excellence from the players and if you do your job and leave everything on the field, I suspect people will accept you.

"I know this is a transition. I've been in the National League throughout my career. For me, it's not so much Boston, but it's getting used to the American League and all of the new ballparks I might be playing in and just getting used to the different fields."

Concerning right field at Fenway Park, Drew recalled with a laugh, "I remember one game Nomar [Garciaparra] hit one toward that railing and I flipped right over into the stands and landed in the first aisle. That was one of my first experiences at Fenway. I take great pride in my defense so I'm going to have to get there and really work on it."

Drew said there has been some discussion about playing center field, and he told manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein he would be willing to do so.

Drew played in a career-high 146 games last season, which he attributes to new training devices, including a Quantum- Resonance System machine that creates a pulsating magnetic field to promote healing and recuperation.

"I think I manage things better," Drew said. "I do my work in the offseason from my home, where I'm able to spend time with my family and do what I feel I need to do to stay in shape and get stronger. During the season, I probably don't do as much shagging in the outfield or do as much hitting. I think I have a better feel for what I need to do to stay healthy, so hopefully that knowledge will help me over a long season."

Drew has worn No. 7, the same number as free agent Trot Nixon, who regularly patrolled right field at Fenway since 1998. "If Trot comes back, I could move to center. It doesn't matter to me," he said. "The more great players we have on our ball club the better off we're going to be. We have such a talented roster and that was definitely one of the things I was looking at. More than one guy can win a game."

He also believes he'll flourish as a hitter at Fenway because "I can't tell you how many fly balls I hit to left in LA that get caught," said Drew, who plans to come to Boston next week for a physical.

Drew said one reason he opted out of his contract with the Dodgers was because he wanted to feel secure and play in one place the remainder of his career. "For my family, I don't want to have to think about whether I'm going to get traded every year."

So for better or worse, Drew says he's excited to be a Red Sox. And he hopes, in time, that his new fan base will be excited, too.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

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