Monday, June 29, 2009

Leadoff spot agrees with Drew

J.D. Drew was well aware he needed a double to complete the cycle when he strode to the plate in the eighth inning.

"Not a player alive wouldn't know he was ready to hit a double in that situation," said Drew, his bubbly side rising to the surface. "I was trying to hit a double. It just didn't quite work out."

How exactly does one try to hit a double, you might ask?

"I don't know how you try," he said with a chuckle. "I was just going to hit the ball and run straight to second if I had to."

Over the pitcher's mound?

"Right through the middle of the infield."

All joking aside, Terry Francona's decision to flip-flop Drew (.380 OBP) and Dustin Pedroia (.367 OBP) in the Red Sox batting order paid off in spades right away. Drew opened Monday night's game with a triple and Pedroia singled him home, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead and Jon Lester all the runs he would need.

"That got a little bit of a reaction in the dugout in the first inning, as you can imagine," Francona said with a smirk.

Pedroia and Drew had gone a combined 7-for-32 (.218) in their last four games batting first and second, respectively, in the Red Sox order. But Francona's decision wasn't a reaction to the results as much as it was a reaction to what it was doing to his second baseman. Pedroia had taken it upon himself to work more counts and see more pitches -- and thus was finding himself taking pitches he normally wouldn't take.

"It did take a little of my aggressiveness away," he said. "When you hit leadoff, you want to get on base so bad. They're throwing pitches on the corner and stuff like that, and, usually, I'm kind of a hacker a little bit, and that took it away from me a little bit. He just said, 'We'll move you down, flip-flop you and J.D., and just go do your thing.'"

Drew, for his part, didn't do anything differently at the plate when he first stepped to the plate. But that's precisely what makes him an ideal leadoff hitter -- his natural approach makes him perhaps the best on-base guy the Red Sox have.

He's such a natural in that spot, in fact, that Francona didn't bother to tell him about the change in person. It wasn't until just after he'd taken his swings in batting practice that he found out he'd be starting the game at the plate rather than in the on-deck circle.

"DeMarlo (Hale) said, 'Hey, you swung the bat like a leadoff hitter in BP,'" Drew said. "I was like, 'What are you talking about?'"

He didn't really need to know. He doesn't make any adjustments.

"I don't really understand the whole concept -- if I'm supposed to take pitches or if I'm supposed to hit the pitches that are right down the middle or what I'm really supposed to do," he said.

A game in which he singled, tripled and homered, well, that's not a bad start.

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