With the departure of Mike Aviles in October, it appearedthe shortstop job would be Jose Iglesias to lose. Now, it appears the job belongs to StephenDrew.The Red Sox signed Drew to a one-year, 9.5 million contract,first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com Monday morning. The Sox have yetto officially announce the deal.In 2012, Drew appeared in a combined 79 games betweenArizona and Oakland, which acquired him in a trade Aug. 20. He hit .223, with a.309 on-base percentage, and .348 slugging percentage, all career lows. In 75 games at shortstop, he posted a .972fielding percentage, also a career low, off his .978 career average and .984career best in 2010. Drew had a career-worst 0-for-22 streak between theDiamondbacks and As.The 79 games were the fewest in his career for a fullseason, behind only 59 in 2006 when he made his big-league debut July 15. Drewdid not appear in a game last season until June 27, missing the first 73 gameswhile recovering from a broken ankle he suffered July 20, 2011, when he wasthrown out sliding into home plate against the Brewers.Drew, who turns 30 in March, was the Diamondbacksfirst-round (15th overall) pick in 2004 out of Florida State. Over seven major league seasons, he has posteda career .265 average, with a .328 OBP, and .433 SLG. His most productiveseason was arguably 2008, when hit .291 with 21 home runs, and 67 RBI in 152games, all career highs.He didnt have spectacular numbers in 2012, but hesgoing to do the job at shortstop, said one scout. Hes going to be an everyday, make-the-playtype of guy. Nothing sensational. I think the big question with him is his batgoing to come back.Another question: Is his ankle fully recovered?I think thats going to be somewhat lingering, said thescout. But he adjusted to having it not in the best of shape by positioning alittle better. The range that he had,that may come back. But he became a smarter player. I think a lot of players,when they get hurt they dont know how to deal with it. But hes always been areal baseball player.Drew is a left-handed hitter, giving the Sox some morebalance to a lineup that was becoming predominantly right-handed.I think with the wall there, he can go the other way, hecan take the ball the other way, said the scout. To a left-handed hitter that wall, that canmake guys, if they know how to go the other way with a pitch, that can add20-30 points to their normal average. Andyou dont have to be a power guy to play wall ball. I think hell do fine.He can catch the ball. He can throw it across the infield.Hes a left-handed hitter whos had an average offensive production-typecareer, and he can take the ball the other way.So, I think thats a good bet that hes going to have a good year.Drew is the younger brother of J.D. Drew, who played rightfield for the Sox for five seasons before retiring after the 2011 season. Bothare represented by Scott Boras. J.D.Drew at times drew the ire of Sox fans for what was perceived as lack ofintensity or urgency.As far as the media, Stephen is kind of a quiet, reservedguy, very much like J.D, said the scout, who followed Stephen Drew closelyearly in his career. Its been a few years, but he seemed to be more outgoingthan J.D. I think hes going to know howto handle things. Hes a pro.The addition of Drew seems to signal the Sox dont thinkIglesias is ready for the big leagues. In 25 games with the Sox in 2012, Iglesias hit just.118, going 8-for-68, with just two extra-base hits -- a home run and two doubles -- two RBI, and fiveruns scored. He struck out 16 times withjust four walks. The defense ofIglesias, who turns 23 on Jan. 5, has never been in doubt since the Sox signedthe Cuban defector in 2009. It is his offense that continues to be doubted.Iglesias cant hit. I hope the Sox dont think thats asecret, said the scout. Sometimes its treated that way in the industry, buthe cant hit. Hes really, really a great defender. But you cant put a bat inhis hands and he cant steal first base.Hes got tools but he doesnt have a toolbox.
Highlights from the Boston Celtics 97-92 win at home against the Sacramento Kings
BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season.
Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games.
The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.
That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward.
“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it.
“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”
So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense.
Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.
“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything.
“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”
So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.
Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.
Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing.
But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.