Drew sits, and a Nation ... yawns?

May, 4, 2011
BOSTON -- There was a time when a slumping J.D. Drew would have spawned outrage in Boston. Now? Mostly a shrug.

Wednesday night, Red Sox manager Terry Francona dropped Drew from the lineup, starting Mike Cameron in right field against Angels pitcher Ervin Santana, a right-hander. Drew has one hit, a double, in 16 at-bats on the homestand. He was 0-for-8 in the first two games against the Los Angeles Angels, striking out four times, including his last three at-bats Tuesday.

Drew has struck out 22 times in 78 at-bats this season, which in a 500 at-bat season would translate to 141 whiffs, far above his career-high of 116 in 2004. He is batting .158 (3-for-19, 9 K's) with runners in scoring position, and is 0-for-6, 4 K's, with runners in scoring position and two out. This, after a second half in which Drew posted a desultory batting line of .231/.318/.421/.740 in 2010.

But now, the white-hot anger directed at Drew for much of his career because of his five-year, $70 million contract appears to have been replaced by a permanent low boil. There is resignation, in the last year of his contract, that Drew is what he is, and no amount of complaining is going to change that.

Take away the contract, and Drew almost certainly would be regarded in a much more positive light than he is. He exhibits traits that historically have been embraced here -- he runs every ball out and never complains. On the flip side, he plays with what many perceive as maddening passivity, and only once in his first four seasons here has played as many as 140 games, leading to grumbling that he doesn't play hurt. What might be even more aggravating to some is that Drew feels no inclination to defend himself, and generally Sox management has been supportive, pointing to his skills as an above-average defender and an on-base percentage that in 2009, when it was .392, ranked second among all AL outfielders.

Drew last season expressed bewilderment about what he viewed a shifting strike zone, contending that pitches he customarily would lay off as outside the zone were being called strikes. Drew came to spring training vowing not to belabor the issue, but Francona believes he is affected.

"He's pretty stubborn,'' Francona said. "He has a great eye. If he doesn't think he can hit it, he's not going to swing.''

Drew has also been fed a steady diet of off-speed stuff that has impacted his timing, his swing in front of many of those pitches. When his timing is right, Francona said, Drew whacks those pitches to left and left-center.

Is being stubborn a positive or negative?

"When he's hitting, it's good,'' Francona said. "When he's not hitting, it's not.''

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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