Stephen Drew has heads up on Sox thanks to brother

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Stephen Drew has heads up on Sox thanks to brother

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Stephen Drew is new to Boston, the latest in a long line of seemingly endless shortstops the Red Sox have employed since trading Nomar Garciaparra in 2004.

But Drew already has a connection to the franchise. The infielder, signed as a free agent over the winter, is the younger brother of former Sox outfielder J.D., who played here from 2007 through 2011.

In fact, Drew will sport No. 7, the same number worn by J.D. in his five seasons here.

"For me, it's an honor to wear the jersey of my older brother" said Drew, "kind of looking up to him. But also, I talked to him two or three days ago, I (reminded) him that this was the number I had in high school. So, when he started wearing the number (in the big leagues), I was kind of like, 'He's taking my number.' We're always making a joke about it, but respecting him and for me, wearing it in high school, I thought it would be a good number."

Stephen is nearly seven years younger than J.D., but the two share the same laconic personality and slight Georgia drawl.

"We're both low-key guys," confirmed Drew. "That's what you'll see."

Then pausing for a second and with a bit of a twinkle, Drew added: "I'm a little more feisty."

Unabashedly, Stephen "looked up to him. He was a great role model for both my brothers (brother Tim, a pitcher, also made it to the big leagues). It's just unique. We all made it here and J.D. had a great career and hopefully, at the end of my career, I can say maybe I was a little better than him."

And yes, J.D. has provided his younger brother with a scouting report on Boston.

"He knows it will be a little different than in Arizona because of the fans and the media," said Stephen. "That's not a big deal. That's something I've dealt with in my career. It's nothing new to me. He did warn me about balls coming off the Monster and how I'll have to go out for them."

But the younger Drew isn't at all intimidated by the prospect of playing in a market with more pressure and expectations.

"Being in the major leagues," he said, "you're going to deal with that every night, no matter what. It doesn't matter where you're at -- you understand the pressures of the game. For me, I focus every day on one day at a time. Every game, I come out and I'm ready to play. My preparation is always the same.

Drew has made three previous visits to Fenway as part of interleague play and has an appreciation for the ballpark.

"I've had fun there," he said. "I like Fenway. I think it's an historic park and the fans get into it. At least I'll be on the home side this time. It's exciting. It's going to be a fun year for me."

The hope is that Drew can provide some extra-base offense in the lower third of the batting order. But given his position, he understands the priorities.

"It's been defense over the years," he said. "I think it's come a long way. I feel really good in the past two or three years with my defense. That's what I take pride in. I'm kind of old school -- I like to (focus on) defense and my offense will take care of itself.

Drew will be paired with second baseman Dustin Pedroia in the middle of the infield.

"It's going to be huge," said Drew. "I got to play early on in my career with Orlando Hudson, who was a Gold Glove (second baseman). Dustin, with the way he plays and plays the game hard, it kind of reminds me of (Hudson). It's going to help me out a lot. Hopefully, we'll (work) good. I don't see that as a problem. I think we'll mesh fine."

Drew missed nearly a year following an ugly ankle injury, the result of a collision at home plate. But after missing the first half of last season recovering, he's now fully recovered.

"I feel good," he said. "It was a long process getting back. All the hard work and preparation, I hope it pays off because I really did put a lot of work into it. There are no limitations at all. It was a normal off-season."

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.