Stephen Drew will wear No. 7 for the Red Sox next season, the same number his brother wore from 2007-11.
For some fans, that will bring up memories of J.D. Drew’s sometimes-exasperating tenure with the Red Sox.
Signed to a five-year, $70 million deal, J.D. Drew hit a modest .264 for the Sox with 80 home runs. Statistics showed that he was among the most productive right fielders in the American League and an excellent defensive player. But those numbers were overshadowed by Drew missing 204 games over his five years with assorted injuries.
Drew played hard when he was on the field. But his outwardly calm demeanor drew the ire of those fans who prefer players demonstrate their emotions.
During a conference call with reporters earlier today, Stephen Drew made a point to say that while he looks up to his brother, he is not a copy of him.
“You guys know J.D., kind of laid-back. I’m laid-back, but probably hold a little more emotion on my shoulder,” Drew said. “At the end of the day, me and J.D., I’m a different person than J.D. and J.D. is different than me. I told people coming into it, J.D. plays right field; I play shortstop. I’ve got a little more pressure playing in the middle of the infield and kind of dealt with that. I’ve always been under my two older brothers. It’s nothing new to me.”
All three Drew brothers — J.D, Tim, and Stephen — were first-round picks.
Drew said that like his brothers, he considers himself a role model for kids.
“I don’t really throw my helmet off [or] throw my bat. You don’t see that,” Drew said. “There’s times you get frustrated. But at the end of the day me and J.D. are a little different. I think I share my emotion. I’ve always been geared to play the game. I love to play the game. I respect J.D. I think I look up to him a lot and learned things from him that have always been with me. But at the same time, we’re totally different players.”
Drew signed a one-year, $9.5 million deal. The shortstop suffered a severe ankle fracture in 2011 and started last season on the disabled list. He returned to play in 79 games and hit .223. Arizona traded him to Oakland in late August.
“I came back a little too soon, which I knew, because they wanted me out on the field. I was doing the best I could to come back as fast as possible,” he said.
Drew hit .263/.331/.431 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 29 games for Oakland in September, helping the Athletics make the playoffs.
Before his ankle injury, Drew was durable and productive. He played in 674 of a possible 746 games for Arizona from the start of the 2007 season until he was injured. From 2007-10, Drew hit .270 with a .773 OPS.
Now he will try and restart his career in Boston.
“The need for shortstops is so great and then when you add in Stephen’s swing plane and his offensive metrics — where he hits the ball in Fenway — we really felt that was kind of a match made for what strengths Stephen has as a hitter and what the ballpark in Boston provides,” agent Scott Boras said.
“We fully expect a very successful season and I think it’s going to give the Red Sox [and] the Red Sox fans a chance to see a player that … I’m not sure everyone really understands the talent level of Stephen Drew. I think after this year, I think everyone is going to think a lot different about what type of player Stephen is and the impact he can have on a division-contending team.”
Said Drew: “I think I’m a good fit in Boston. It’s going to be fun playing with [Dustin] Pedroia. I’ve played against him, but to actually get to play with a good second baseman is going to be a really good opportunity for me.
“I’m going to come in this year and just hopefully have a great year. The biggest thing is just stay healthy. I think my talent will be OK. Everybody that has talent, you just have to stay healthy. It’s kind of unfortunate with my ankle injury. Hadn’t really never missed any long-term time in the major league except for this injury. I can’t really say where I’m going to be at the end of this year coming up after Boston’s season over. I’m just going to play it by ear and see what happens. I’m just really excited to be there and I know it’s going to be a good fit for me.”
Drew’s injury, which came on a slide to the plate, was gruesome. His foot bent at an awkward angle, causing him to break his fibula and suffer ligament damage. He had a plate attached to the bone as part of the surgery.
“The ankle is doing well,” Drew said. “I’m very pleased with it. I put a lot of hard work into it not knowing where I’d be at this past season. Coming back strong at the end of the season really gave me confidence. The ankle is doing tremendous.”
Boras believes the rehab process made Drew an even better defender than he was before.
“Stephen has actually come through this with greater defensive acumen as far as range after the ankle injury than before because of the fact that he has worked so diligently and hard on his conditioning and on his lateral movement in preparing to come back and play,” he said.
Here’s the video of the injury: