Drew hits first HR, starts key double play

Drew hits first HR, starts key double play

BOSTON -- Full-time Major Leaguers usually get around 50 at-bats during Spring Training, and without the benefit of those, some players start the regular season slow.

Stephen Drew signed with the Red Sox in late May and fell victim to that fate. But teammate Jonny Gomes says that any player who didn't get those at-bats in Spring Training deserve some kind of grace period during the season.

That grace period is ending for Drew, who entered Saturday hitting just .136/.174/.182 in 69 plate appearances. But the shortstop drilled the first pitch he saw deep in a 3-2 win against the Orioles in Game 1 of a doubleheader, clearing the right-field bullpens to get the Red Sox on the board. It was his first home run of the year and third RBI in 20 games.

"This is the big leagues. The best in the business," Drew said. "I knew it was going to be a little different. Not being in this position before -- not making excuses -- it just takes a little time. It's going to come around."

The Red Sox hope this is the beginning of that turnaround. One thing the team hasn't had to worry about is Drew's glove, though. He ranked 12th among shortstops in defensive wins above replacement in 2013, according to Fangraphs.

The 31-year-old showed that once again Saturday, starting a 6-4-3 double play that ended Baltimore's eighth inning. North of 100 pitches, Jon Lester gave up a single to start that frame with the game tied at 2.

Nelson Cruz grounded a ball up the middle that Drew slid feet-first to his left to glove. He spun and flipped to Dustin Pedroia, who finished the double play, all in one smooth, fluid motion.

"He's maybe not driving in as many as he wants," Gomes said, "but he's keeping runs from touching the dish, and that's a 100 percent fact."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.