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Drew keeps at it, finds his rhythm again

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 13, 2010

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The first three at-bats had not gone well for J.D. Drew, with two called strikeouts and a swinging bunt that was handled by the catcher. He had done nothing, part of a team that had done nothing, but he walked to the plate in the ninth with a chance to make something happen. Kevin Youkilis had singled up the middle, and it was Drew’s turn, with the Red Sox trailing, 3-0.

He did what he has done so often in recent days. Drew delivered, with a double to center field, knocking in Youkilis and extending the inning. He would score on Adrian Beltre’s single to center, though that would be all for the Sox as they fell to the Blue Jays.

“I had three tough at-bats because of that expanded strike zone,’’ Drew said. “It was tough. But I finally had a good swing the last time up and was able to get us closer.

“You have to try and not come out of your game plan. That has always been a key for me. It took a while, but I finally made some good contact. It’s too bad we fell short there.’’

It has not been easy for Drew of late, as he has suffered from bouts of vertigo. He got the first April 25 after the team arrived in Toronto, and suffered the second Monday, leaving him lying on the couch in manager Terry Francona’s office, unable to play. He said it lasted about an hour after he took some medication.

“I hadn’t had them in a while,’’ he said yesterday. “I had one literally 15 minutes before the game. When I take the medicine, it pretty much levels me as far as really sleepy, kind of light-headed feeling. So I was able to go home, get a good night’s sleep, and woke up feeling fine.’’

He was so improved by Tuesday that he dropped down his first bunt hit in nearly six years, continuing an excellent stretch for a hitter who started very slowly.

“Been a while,’’ he said. “That was back in my young days when I could do all that stuff, bunt and run.’’

He said of his offensive outburst of late, “Just try to create a rhythm and just enjoy a game, really. Just relax and square balls up. That was the goal all along. When you start getting hits, you build confidence, kind of get things on a roll. So it’s been working out well.’’

That’s obvious. On the 10-game homestand, Drew batted .469 with 4 doubles, 7 RBIs, 5 walks, and 11 runs. He has raised his average from .214 to .284.

“He had three at-bats today that he was frustrated with,’’ said hitting coach Dave Magadan, “but he put a really good swing on that ball in the ninth inning and gave us a chance to win the game.

“He’s using the whole field, hitting the ball where it’s pitched, just like most hitters. When he’s doing that, he can be dangerous.’’

Closer and closer
There remains no timetable for Jacoby Ellsbury, even though the outfielder was able to run hard on the bases before Tuesday night’s game. He is clearly making progress with his rib injury, but the Sox are not to the point where they can send him to a rehab start with Pawtucket.

Both Ellsbury and Francona said they didn’t know whether he was going to go on the road trip to Detroit and New York.

“The last three or four days have been pretty good for him,’’ Francona said. “I think we hope the next three or four days are really good for him, because then the next step is playing in a game. I think we’re getting closer.

“I thought he had a really good day yesterday. He shagged pretty aggressively. He’s been swinging the bat really well. He still feels it a little, it still pinches on certain things, but he is getting better.’’

Ellsbury said he still has “a little ways to go,’’ before he can make a rehab start, but did seem pleased with his progress.

“I still feel that sharp pain, but it’s getting better, so that’s a good sign,’’ Ellsbury said. “I’m just happy that I’ve been able to take some swings, get a little running in these last couple days. So when I do come back, I’ll have done it for hopefully a little while.’’

Cameron on deck
Mike Cameron used the words “scared’’ and “nervous’’ to describe how he was feeling before heading down to Pawtucket to play in games Monday and Tuesday. But he said yesterday, when he returned to Boston for the day, that he was shocked at how well his body responded to a game at DH and a game in center field.

The plan remains for him to have 4-5 games in the minors before returning, though he is committed to making sure he is fully healed from his abdominal strain. He would love to return by the time the Sox head to New York Monday.

“That’s kind of a tentative idea that we’ve come up with,’’ Cameron said. “We’ll see. Just have to see how the body kind of responds to things that are going on.

“So far it’s been pretty good. Just trying to get my body stretched out again and used to the pounding. When you take almost a month off, it’s not easy. It’s not easy when you’re about 22.

“With that being said, just having the type of injury kind of makes me have to adjust what feels good, what doesn’t feel good, what type of pain or hurting I can play with. Those are kind of some keys I’m starting to find out about myself.’’

No rush on Beckett
There was no news on Josh Beckett, who suffered back spasms after taking batting practice with the pitchers Monday. It’s unclear when Beckett will start again, as the Sox have just slipped Tim Wakefield into Beckett’s slot. In fact, with today’s day off, all of the starters will still get to pitch on an extra day’s rest. “The main idea is to try to get him to loosen up and be pain-free so that he can go do his baseball activities and not back up and get worse and aggravated,’’ Francona said. “It doesn’t really get in the way. We’d love Beckett to pitch when he can, but we’ll get him a side when he’s ready and then we’ll slot him in basically wherever we should. Again, because of the day off and Wake, we don’t have to force the issue. So we’ll make sure he’s OK to pitch.’’ . . . Jonathan Van Every started in place of Darnell McDonald in center field to give McDonald the day off, and also for better defense because Wakefield allows so many fly balls. McDonald did enter the game as a pinch hitter, belting a single to lead off the eighth. He is 2 for 2 as a pinch hitter, the other hit being a home run against Texas April 20 . . . The Sox are 2-8 in day games, the worst record in baseball.

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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