J.D. Drew held his first press conference today, and no, they didn't roll him out on a gurney. The new Red Sox right fielder, signed to a five-year, $70 million contract, said he's as healthy as he's been in a long time, is having no problems with his surgically repaired right shoulder, and has played a lot of catch in the offseason with no problems.
"Last year was a healing process,'' Drew said, referring to a season in which he went nearly two months without a home run and admitted that the shoulder surgery he'd had in September 2005 had adversely affected his throwing.
Drew said he was looking forward to learning the right field corner in Fenway and that he would "hopefully be a solid defender'' with the Sox. He is looking forward to being part of a 3-4-5 with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and said on paper this should be the best lineup he's ever been a part of.
Drew, who sported a small goatee, deflected questions about critics who have accused him of being a passive player, saying critical comments made by former manager Tony La Russa would not stop him from saying hello to him if he saw him.
One of his most outspoken critics in the past was Curt Schilling, who was with the Phillies when Drew spurned an offer to sign with Philadelphia and wound up going to the Cardinals instead. On the Cardinals' first visit to Philly, Schilling invited the fans to boo Drew, egging them on with, "This is going to be one of the defining moments for our fans,'' Schilling said at the time, adding, "I expect them to participate in this exercise of booism.''
Phillies fans not only booed Drew, but threw batteries, coins and rolls of toilet paper at him, and Cards manager La Russa ripped Schill for baiting the fans. Drew had single, triple, stole a base and scored two runs in that game, then hit a 434-foot homer the next.
"That goes way, way back,'' Drew said with a smile. "We're completely fine.''
Drew said he saw Schill on the treadmill this morning, but didn't say whether they'd talked. He did mention that when the Sox played the Braves in 2004, his brother Tim drilled Manny with a pitch, and he said Schilling, who pitched a complete game, tried to hit him in retaliation but he was nimble enough to get out of the way.
Click here to listen to the entire press conference.