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Drew, Red Sox finally connect

He'll officially sign deal today

J.D. DREW Power outage in 2006 J.D. DREW Power outage in 2006

After finally acquiring contract relief in case J.D. Drew's troublesome right shoulder causes him to miss significant time, the Red Sox are expected to make official the signing of a five-year, $70 million deal today, 52 days after Drew's agent, Scott Boras, first announced a deal had been struck.

There was no official acknowledgment from the Sox yesterday, club spokesman John Blake saying the team had no comment.

But sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations said all parties have signed off on an agreement that allows the Sox to achieve their goal of making Drew their right fielder and No. 5 hitter, while giving the team the right to void either of the last two years of the deal, or both, should Drew's right shoulder render him unable to play.

Drew is not expected to be in Boston for today's announcement.

Under the terms of the contract, if Drew goes on the disabled list in his third year for issues related to the shoulder for a proscribed length of time, the Sox have the option to void the final two years. If he winds up on the disabled list in his fourth year, the Sox have the option of voiding the final year.

The out clause is similar to those in contracts negotiated in recent years by the Detroit Tigers with Boras for catcher Ivan Rodriguez and outfielder Magglio Ordonez. The Tigers could have opted out of Ordonez's five-year, $75 million contract after just one year if Ordonez had spent 25 or more days on the DL because of a preexisting knee condition. With Rodriguez, who had back problems, the Tigers could have voided the last two years of his four-year, $40 million contract if he spent a total of 35 days on the DL in 2004 and '05 with back problems.

Both players stayed healthy, fully guaranteeing their contracts, and the Tigers won the American League pennant last season, with Rodriguez and Ordonez playing key roles.

The exact number of days Drew must be on the DL is probably closer to Rodriguez's than Ordonez's. If Drew's shoulder were to act up in the first two years of the contract, the Sox would have no relief, which apparently was of less concern to the club than the possibility of problems down the road.

Red Sox doctors, in examining Drew and his medical records, detected potential indicators of future shoulder problems. Drew underwent surgery in September 2005, when he was with the Dodgers, to repair a tear in his labrum, and had some holes drilled in his shoulder blade to facilitate cartilage growth. He reported shoulder weakness last season while with the Dodgers, and acknowledged it might have contributed to a midseason decline in his power. He went 43 games without a home run from June 2 to July 27, a period during which the Dodgers went 16-32 and nearly fell out of the race in the NL West.

Drew ended up hitting 11 home runs in his last 56 games and the Dodgers qualified for the playoffs by winning the NL wild card, but he then elected to exercise an out clause in his contract with three years and a guaranteed $33 million left on the five-year, $55 million deal he'd signed prior to the '05 season. At the time he signed with the Dodgers, then GM Paul DePodesta acknowledged the team was aware of an arthritic condition in Drew's shoulder.

Drew's deal with the Red Sox, who appeared to have little competition for his services, calls for him to be paid $14 million in each of the next five years, though a significant amount of the final $14 million will be deferred unless Drew plays in a specific number of games over the life of the contract.

The Major League Players Association had to sign off on the terms of the deal.

Healthy, the 31-year-old Drew has the potential to be a significant upgrade to the middle of the Sox lineup, where he is projected to bat behind David Ortiz, with Manny Ramírez occupying the No. 3 hole. Drew's OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .946 ranked 11th among players with 1,200 plate appearances.

But he has been injury-prone (seven trips to the DL in eight years) and has been accused by critics of being too passive, an attribute that would not hold him in good stead in Boston, not when he's replacing the fiery Trot Nixon.

Fox's national Game of the Week will have a different start time this season, at 3:55 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The Sox are scheduled to appear nine times on Fox, the maximum any team can appear.

So far, the Sox are scheduled for two Sunday night games on ESPN -- April 8 at Texas and April 22, when they host the Yankees at Fenway Park. Those games have a scheduled 8:05 start. Teams can appear on ESPN Sunday night telecasts a maximum of five times, and the Sox have three other games tentatively designated for that slot -- against the Yankees June 3 and Sept. 16, both in Boston, and the season finale Sept. 30, also at home, against the Minnesota Twins.

The Sox have a dozen day games in April (six at home), including a 10 a.m. start on Patriots Day. Six of the Fox Saturday games are home games; four games are against the Yankees, two at home.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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