Notes: Drew ready for playoffs
September surge, experience have outfielder confident
BOSTON -- When the postseason begins next week for the Red Sox, the burden of underperformance that right fielder J.D. Drew has carried around for months will suddenly lessen.
In truth, Drew has had himself a fine September (.323, three homers, 13 RBIs entering Thursday). But every time he makes an out or has an 0-fer, his overall numbers (.266, 10 homers, 59 RBIs, base salary of $14 million) are called into question by the massive audience that scrutinizes the Red Sox on a daily basis.
When Drew steps up to the plate for the first time in October, his numbers will be at zero, along with everyone else's. And he'll have the momentum of a strong finish at his back.
"I've had my ups and downs," said Drew, who poked an RBI single to right in his first at-bat on Thursday. "A lot more downs than I've had ups. But things will all work out. We've got the postseason to go through, and that's a whole other season in itself."
This will mark the sixth postseason go-around for Drew, who got there three times with the Cardinals, once with the Braves and once via last year's abbreviated run with the Dodgers.
"I know exactly what we're heading into. And I've been there quite a few times," Drew said. "So I know what to expect. I don't know if that's a plus or a minus, but in some cases I think it's gotta be a plus, that's for sure."
Drew is just thankful the team has done enough to afford him a chance for some sweet redemption in October.
"We've played well enough to win the division and do things like that," said Drew. "When you go into the postseason, it is a completely separate season. You have to separate what you did during the year and say 'Hey, we have to regroup as a team.' Everything kind of resets and you start over."
Drew's swing has been a work in progress all year long, but he finally appears to be getting comfortable.
"There's no greater expectation than a player has on himself," said Drew. "Absolutely, I got frustrated and tried to work out some things and get different things going. Sometimes I get to a situation where they snowball and I'm just in a situation where my head is above water. I'm just trying to continue to have good quality at-bats and get myself geared up and ready to go in the postseason. I felt like I've had a good September and kind of hit balls where they ain't. That's been a good feeling."
Coco out again: For the third game in a row, center fielder Coco Crisp was out of the lineup because of what appears to be a viral infection. Red Sox manager Terry Francona is hopeful Crisp will return over the next couple of days, but the timetable is uncertain.
"[It will] be nice to see him get some fluids in him and get rid of some of the dizziness and some of the nausea that comes with that," said Francona. "I think he's feeling better but not ready to go."
The Red Sox are confident that any red flags were eliminated during Crisp's Thursday morning checkup.
"Some inner-ear issues, I think they [were] ruled out," said Francona. "I think it's strictly viral. I'm not sure that makes him feel better. I think as far as his prognosis for getting back on the field, it looks probably like it will be quicker. As soon as he starts feeling better, we can get him back out there."
Jacoby Ellsbury, who started in place of Crisp, had to leave the game at the start of the fifth inning because of cramping in his right calf. Drew moved to center and Bobby Kielty entered the game and went to right field.
Youk back to the bench: Though first baseman Kevin Youkilis returned from his right wrist contusion to start Wednesday night's game, he still isn't back to 100 percent. With that in mind, Francona rested the right-handed hitter Thursday and played Eric Hinske at first.
Francona noted that Youkilis began to feel some fatigue in the wrist in the latter innings Wednesday.
"He's not sore, which is real good," Francona said. "But by about the seventh inning, [his] third or fourth at-bat, he was getting fatigued there. We don't want to set him backwards, either. Since he felt like that, OK, we won't start him tonight, we have him available off the bench, but let's try to do this right."
Birthday celebration for Pesky: The Red Sox had a special birthday presentation for team lifer Johnny Pesky before the game. A cake was presented to the long-time club ambassador, who turned 88 on Thursday. Pesky threw a ceremonial first pitch to Youkilis.
Manny still second: Francona went with the same plan for left fielder Manny Ramirez on Thursday, batting him second with the plan of having him play a partial game.
Ramirez missed 24 games with a strained left oblique before returning to the lineup.
"I'd like to get him out there for an entire game [before the playoffs]. I think that would probably be beneficial," Francona said. "If it's not going to help him we won't do it. We'll just do whatever is in our best interest. I think, so far, we've done a good job of building him up and not going backwards."
As for batting Ramirez in the No. 2 slot in the lineup, that is strictly so he can maximize the amount of at-bats he gets in a game.
"I want to get him the extra at-bat," said Francona. "I didn't wake up and think he'd be a good guy to move runners. Just makes sense. If we can get another at-bat without him staying out there, it seems to make sense."
Okajima back in the 'pen: For the first time since Sept. 14, the Red Sox had lefty setup man Hideki Okajima available out of the bullpen. Okajima had been recuperating from fatigue.
"We'd love to get him in a game, because we'd like to get him in two more games before we get moving here," Francona said. "I don't anticipate him having any problems physically, because he looks great. Now, if he got into an inning and it was starting to lengthen out, we would think about protecting him just because he hasn't been out there for a while."
Does the Buch stop here? Still no word from Francona on exactly how top prospect Clay Buchholz fits in -- or if he fits in -- to the team's October pitching plans. In fact, the manager was non-committal when asked if there were plans to get Buchholz in one of the remaining regular-season games.
"I'm going to stay with the mantra of what we're doing," Francona said. "If you see him pitch, he's in the game and then we'll talk about how well he pitched or whatever. But there's some things, and I think everybody is aware of the structure that we're aware of and trying to adhere to ... win every game, and at the same time realize the future of this young man. That's kind of where we're at."
Coming up: Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (14-12, 4.48 ERA) will take his fourth and final crack at win No. 15 on Friday night when he pitches the second of this four-game series against the Twins. Minnesota counters with right-hander Kevin Slowey (4-0, 4.57 ERA) in the 7:05 p.m. ET start at Fenway Park.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.