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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Drew not hurt by naysayers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- He did not wear goat horns or devil horns. He didn't push any photographers or flip off any fans. He didn't demand a contract extension or show up looking like the late John Candy. He didn't insult any owner or club executive. He didn't ask for his own locker room or personal trainer. He didn't claim to be the father of Anna Nicole's baby and he didn't make excuses for failing to live up to great expectations.

Maybe J.D. Drew isn't going to be the disaster so many predicted when the Red Sox scrambled (alone) to sign him for $70 million this winter.

Drew took his physical yesterday, then met with the carnivorous Boston media for the first time. He was polite and a little boring, but hardly seemed worthy of the wrath his name has inspired.

Indeed, it would be hard to remember another professional ballplayer getting pounded the way Drew was hammered before he ever set foot in New England. The Red Sox were told they were suckers and a number of Fenway fans seemed to make up their minds that Drew was going to be the next Jack Clark. A National League fraud. A passive player who won't play hurt.

Drew heard it. He knows there are people who seem to be waiting for him to fail. Through the years he's been trashed by heavyweights such as Curt Schilling and Tony La Russa and he knows he's got the image of a guy who plays with little passion and misses a lot of games because of injuries.

"You get kind of fed up with it," he acknowledged. "I think the little things that people don't understand is the way I prepare myself to play the game. I've been taught, basically from my college days, to play the game at an even keel and play the game focused. Fundamentally correct is how I've always tried to play the game, and I think sometimes that's perceived the wrong way.

"I know if I go out there and do things right day in and day out, offensively and defensively, you're hoping to help your team win ballgames, and when you look at the end of the season your numbers are right where you want them to be."

Drew hit .283 with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs for the Dodgers last year, then opted out of the remaining three years of his contract.

There appeared to be little interest in his high-priced services before the Red Sox came running with a five-year pact worth $70 million. It had the appearance of a Scott Boras-orchestrated bag job, and the New York Times claims the Dodgers considered filing tampering charges against Boston.

Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner were in camp Tuesday and insisted there were multiple teams bidding for Drew. We all remember the interminable delay getting the deal finalized and the Sox are now only on the hook for $42 million if Drew's surgically repaired right shoulder forces him to stop playing.

Drew said he's prepared for the scrutiny of playing in Boston.

"Absolutely. I think those things all kind of come with the territory," he said. "I think if you go out and do your job right and do it well, you build those fan bases. You get a chance to play in a city that is passionate about the game of baseball."

He will play right field and wear the number (7) of the popular player he replaced, Trot Nixon. He will bat in the No. 5 spot behind David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez (assuming Manny shows, that is).

He said he's never spoken with La Russa about derogatory comments the manager made in a book two years ago. La Russa portrayed Drew as an underachiever who lacked fire.

"I never have read it," said Drew, who broke into the big leagues under La Russa in St. Louis. "He's entitled to his opinion. I've kind of heard things about it, but it's something I can't focus on. I can only control what I do out there on the field on a daily basis, and I try to take it a game at a time and an at-bat at a time."

The 31-year-old National League lifer has mastered the cliché-driven, major league nonspeak made famous in "Bull Durham." He sounds like a guy who could be downright boring, which can be a good thing in a Boston clubhouse that already has a colorful cast of characters.

He is 6 feet 1 inch, 200 pounds, and looks like he spent the offseason working out with Navy SEALs. He says the shoulder feels fine. He is eager to learn the angles of the green acres in Fenway's right field and says the Wall will help his opposite-field power.

What type of player should the Red Sox expect?

"Hopefully, a solid defender. With offense and the way the game is played today, I try to bring the other side as well," he said. "I think defensively you can help your team almost as much as you can offensively if you can pick your pitchers up and help them. Offensively, you take what you get a lot of times. I'm not necessarily the most overly aggressive person at the plate. I definitely pride myself on making the pitcher work and being aggressive on the pitch that I'm looking for.

"It's going to be fun. I'm really excited about getting a chance to play in Fenway, where I know it sets up well for a person who has the kind of swing that I do."

He played in more than 140 games in two of the last three seasons. He's been an MVP candidate. He showed up in great shape. He's an upgrade over Trot. He hasn't said or done anything dumb since the Sox signed him. Sure, he's overpaid, even by today's ridiculous standards.

But why not give the guy a chance?

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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