BOSTON -- For the first time in a week Stephen Drew is back in the Red Sox lineup, playing shortstop and hitting eighth.
"He passed his tests as far as swinging the bat with increased intensity," manager John Farrell said Sunday morning. "All the defensive work that he's gone through really never produced symptoms in the oblique so he's in there today."
Now that he's healthy enough to be back in the lineup, the question is when will be comfortable there? After sitting out the first 56 games of the season before the Red Sox signed him as a free agent on May 21, it's been a rocky return for Drew.
In four games, he's gone 1-for-14 with two walks and five strikeouts.
"You don't have the benefit of a gradual build-up that spring training would provide," Farrell said. "Not only is he coming back into full-speed but he's coming back to face pitching that's now got two full [or] two-and-a-half months under their belt.
"Command is more consistent than would be found in spring training. In other words, everyone is getting in shape at the same rate, the same progression. Now to jump back in it's a bigger jump than just the time and games missed. There's more consistency that he's facing than he would be getting his first at-bats back in April. It's further challenging to come back in and compete at a level, or produce at a level, I would say, that he might otherwise perform to or realize at the beginning of a season."
Farrell added: "Getting his timing back at the big-league level is a challenge. Not only for him but for anybody that would miss two full months."
Drew's reporting to the team in late May is a rare situation, both for the player and the team. How does his workload get ratcheted up? How does he get worked into everyday playing shape? What can be done to help him hit the ground running?
Drew got seven games and 23 at-bats in the minors before joining the big-league club. But any momentum he might've built there -- and his Major League numbers this season would suggest it wasn't much -- was halted by the oblique injury that has kept him out of the lineup since June 8.
"You plan to get some base built or some foundation. But there's really no template," Farrell said of trying to ease Drew back into things.
"You look at what [Twins designated hitter] Kendry Morales [signed June 7] did, he jumped right in and has been multiple hits a game. That's not to say that Stephen's not capable of that. But at the same time Morales is a DH and Stephen is a middle-of-the-diamond player. There's not one exact way to get a guy ready for the season."
One method? Play him, which what they'll do with Drew on Sunday against Indians righty starter Corey Kluber.