Drew back with Red Sox for crucial stretch

Drew back with Red Sox for crucial stretch

BALTIMORE -- Two months of his season gone, JD Drew's taking the better-late-than-never approach.

After a rather triumphant return to the Red Sox on Sunday -- he went 1-for-5 with an RBI single and played 13 innings in a crucial 7-4 win over the Yankees -- the right fielder was again in Boston's lineup on Monday. Before Sunday, he hadn't played in the bigs since July 19.

"This is just a fun time of year. This is what you play for," Drew said Monday before the Red Sox took on the Orioles to kick off their final series of the regular season. "We don't want to find ourselves in the situation that we're in, but there's something to be said about playing to the end. We'll do that, see what the future holds for the postseason, and then continue on there."

Drew went on the disabled list in late July with a left shoulder impingement, then fractured his right middle finger in a Triple-A rehab game at the end of August.

"It's a tough situation, with my finger still being a little sore and not having had a lot of batting practice, to go out there and play for five hours is not your typical first day back in a couple of months," Drew said. "But I feel good. I've kept myself in good shape. My shoulder feels pretty good. My strength is there. Now it's just a matter of grinding out at-bats and see what happens."

Manager Terry Francona said it was "kind of a lot to ask" for Drew to come right back on Monday, but as a left-handed hitter, he isn't likely to start on Tuesday when southpaw Zach Britton goes for Baltimore.

Drew said he told Francona that he was available to play before the first game of a doubleheader in New York on Sunday, and he was activated before the second. In his walk year, the 35-year-old Drew thought he'd be able to come back sooner, but the finger made it impossible to swing.

Though this year could well be his last with the Red Sox -- and perhaps his last before retirement - Drew said his focus is fully with the task at hand, the American League Wild Card. Boston is up one game on the Rays with three to play.

"Next year's not even a concern at this point. This year is the ultimate thing," Drew said. "From where we stood a few months ago or even a month ago I wouldn't have thought it would come down to the way we're playing right now and having to battle it out. But I think the attitude's good. We'll see how it works out."