BOSTON — Stephen Drew already feels right at home.
It’s been a long six months for Drew, who lingered on the free-agent market until agreeing to a one-year, prorated contract with the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. But upon returning to Fenway Park on Wednesday, the veteran shortstop expressed comfort, confidence and an anxiousness to return to action.
“It’s been interesting, needless to say,” said Drew, who was unable to land a multiyear contract on the open market after rejecting a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from Boston at the beginning of free agency. “I’m glad to be back in a Red Sox uniform, and I couldn’t ask for anything better.
“The guys here, I know them and I had a great year last year and just getting ready for whatever, preparing myself like everyone does in the offseason and being able to come back here. I can’t thank the organization enough for thinking about me. The guys in the clubhouse are what matter the most and what they think about me.”
Several players in the Red Sox’s clubhouse have given Drew’s return their stamp of approval. There’s seemingly an understanding that while he’s been away from game action for a while, the 31-year-old has the tools and the mindset to hit the ground running. Drew said Wednesday he worked out extensively in Miami and Georgia during his elongated offseason.
“Taking ground balls every day, taking ground balls by myself every day and running bases and working out, it’s all you can really ask of anybody (in my situation),” Drew said. “That’s a lot of ground balls and doing it in the heat of Georgia and Miami, it’s not easy. I feel really good, I feel confident and I wasn’t worried getting back out there when I got this (opportunity).”
Drew will remain on the Red Sox’s active roster for a couple of days before beginning a minor league assignment to fully ramp up to game speed. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Tuesday that Drew likely will need 25 at-bats, which could span 10 to 12 days, although the shortstop is available in emergency situations while on the active roster this week.
Xander Bogaerts will shift to third base once Drew returns to the starting lineup. It’s something Bogaerts seemed a bit disappointed about upon learning the news Tuesday, but Drew said Wednesday he doesn’t expect there to be any issues between him and the 21-year-old.
It’s unclear at this point what Drew’s return means for Will Middlebrooks, who currently is on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right index finger. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday that Middlebrooks is “weeks” away from returning, though, so the club’s overall picture could become clearer by then.
Drew struggled to find a lucrative, multiyear deal in free agency largely because of the draft pick compensation attached to him by virtue of him rejecting Boston’s qualifying offer. It’s possible Drew’s market could have heated up after the June draft — when teams no longer would have been required to relinquish a draft pick to sign him — but the veteran simply viewed this as the right time to rejoin the Red Sox.
“I’m excited to be back and excited to have these guys here,” Drew said. “It seems like I haven’t left, which is a great feeling and I’m excited to get back and get going and get playing.”
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