The Red Sox have questions about the condition of J.D. Drew's surgically repaired right shoulder, questions that have kept them from finalizing a deal for the free agent right fielder two weeks after Drew's agent, Scott Boras, announced at the winter meetings that the Sox and Drew had come to terms on a five-year, $70 million contract.
Until the parties sign off on the deal, Drew remains a free agent, according to Gene Orza, chief operating officer for the Major League Baseball Players Association, who confirmed that the Sox raised questions about Drew's shoulder after he underwent the physical upon which the deal was conditioned.
For now, Orza said, the issues are more the subject of an inquiry by the Sox than at the center of a dispute between the parties. "We [the union] are not involved in it yet," Orza said.
"Apparently, the parties are talking about the consequences of a procedure J.D. had, that in the opinion of the doctor, was designed to help further the rehabilitation of the shoulder."
Once the Red Sox are satisfied that the additional work done on Drew's shoulder is "to their advantage," Orza said, he expected the matter to be resolved. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had no comment yesterday on the matter, and Boras said he was restrained by HIPAA regulations from responding to questions, including whether Drew had gone to see a doctor for a second opinion. Drew did not respond to a phone call as of last night.
Both Epstein and Boras have insisted that the matter revolves around minor "language issues" in the contract and both predicted last week a swift resolution of the problem.
The Boston Herald first reported Saturday that the Sox might be seeking additional contract protection because of an unspecified physical problem.
In September 2005, while in his first season with the Dodgers, Drew underwent surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder that at the time was described as minor in nature. Paul DePodesta, who was the Dodgers' GM at the time, was quoted as saying the club was aware he had an "arthritic shoulder" before signing him to a five-year, $55 million deal before the '05 season.
DePodesta, who was fired by the Dodgers after the '05 season and is now with the San Diego Padres, said yesterday he is legally prohibited from commenting on his time with the Dodgers. Just before surgery, Drew said of his shoulder condition: "When I throw balls to the plate, I get a little burn in the back of my shoulder. I've been feeling that for a couple of years, and it's been gradually getting worse."
Drew, who at the time had a fractured left wrist after being hit by a pitch, had arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist at the same time his shoulder was repaired. A tear in his labrum was repaired and he reportedly also had holes drilled in his shoulder blade to promote cartilage growth.
He was brought along slowly because of the shoulder in spring training before the 2006 season -- he was limited in his throwing -- but insisted then the shoulder condition would not adversely affect his hitting. "I haven't lost that," Drew said at the time. "I firmly believe God blessed me with the ability to let the ball get deep and let my hands do the work. I think that'll take care of itself."
But last July, during a stretch in which he went 43 games and 139 at-bats without a home run -- from June 2 to July 27, a period in which the Dodgers went 16-32 and nearly fell out of the NL West race -- Drew admitted that a weakened shoulder was a contributing factor.
"It could have," Drew told the Orange County Register. "[Detroit first baseman] Sean Casey told me he had a similar thing done and it took him a good 12 months to get his strength all the way back. I know I've lost some [strength]. Even the trainers have told me they can tell there's some residual weakness in the back of my right shoulder."
Casey had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff while with the Reds in 2002, at which time doctors also discovered a torn labrum. Limited to six home runs by the injury in '02, Casey hit 14 homers in 2003 and 24 in '04.
Drew broke his homerless slump on July 28 with a grand slam and hit 11 homers in his last 56 games to finish with 20 for the season, tying him with Nomar Garciaparra for the club lead. But the Sox, who obtained Drew's medical records from Boras, as is customary with free agents, evidently detected something when Drew came to Boston for his physical.
Orza said he was uncertain what was added in the surgery, though he compared it to a heart patient receiving a fibrillator to improve the performance of the heart. He also said he could not say whether that was all part of the same procedure, in 2005, or a subsequent procedure.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, in a news conference held upon his arrival in Tokyo, confirmed that he plans to train in southern California next month.
Asked about his expectations for next season, according to Sankei Sport he said: "I think getting a good start on the season will be a key to succeed. At this time, I feel Boston fans are welcoming to me, but I heard their character.
"When I'm not playing well, I am sure to have a tough time in Boston. I am going to do my best in order to make Boston fans be more excited."
Matsuzaka spoke with his new catcher, Jason Varitek, in a conference call the day after signing, Boras said.
When the agent visited in Japan this summer, Matsuzaka's wife asked for a favor. "She wanted to know if I could get Daisuke the jersey of his favorite player," Boras said. "I thought it might be Ichiro, or [Hideki] Matsui. No -- it was Jason Varitek."