FORT MYERS, Fla. — So, yes, J.D. Drew said today that he could play baseball at this point. But that doesn’t mean anyone should celebrate just yet. Drew said today that he battled back stiffness through the entire offseason, the same stiffness that became a problem at the end of last season.
“Just been one of them injuries that have kind of lingered and I’ve been able to hit and run and do all that stuff,” Drew said. “Some days I wake up stiff, some days it doesn’t seem to be too bad. Just in the maintenance stages.”
Drew said he had an MRI this offseason. The problem remains the herniated disc that he suffered from last season, one that kept him out for a good chunk down the stretch, though he was able to return in the playoffs. The plan now is to try to keep the back from flaring up, or getting inflamed. He added that the back issue doesn’t seem major enough for a procedure at this point, though it could be something he might have to deal with years from now.
“I’m not concerned that I won’t be at full capacity to play,” Drew said. “If we had to go out there and play a game today I could do that. It wouldn’t be a problem. That being said, I have battled with this the entire offseason, just as far as stiffness goes. Not really mobility as much. You wake up stiff, you move around, you do a few things, you sit down for a while, you get stiff.”
Drew has been able to swing the bat this offseason, and can do so now. He said he expects to speak with general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona about a game plan for spring training, and whether he will be limited.
Strength coach Dave Page visited Drew last month, and Drew told Page that he was feeling good, according to a team source. He also came through some testing well. This isn’t unusual, as trainers visit players periodically in the offseason.
The injury doesn’t seem to be a major concern for the team at this point. Though if it gets worse, it could be a problem, given that the team’s backup outfielder, Rocco Baldelli, has health concerns of his own. It’s not yet known how much time Baldelli will be able to spend on the field. The fifth outfielder, Mark Kotsay, is coming off back surgery, and won’t be available until the end of April or early May. The Sox also signed Brad Wilkerson to a minor-league deal.