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09/13/08 12:19 AM ET

Drew suffers another setback

Right fielder gets shot in back, leaves team due to family death

BOSTON -- Every time Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is about to get back into the starting lineup, he has a setback. This time, there was not only that, but also a death in the family.

Before Friday's game, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had targeted Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader for Drew to be back in Boston's lineup for the first time since Aug. 17.

But that plan went by the boards a few hours later, when Drew and the Red Sox's medical staff conferred and decided that the left-handed hitter needed a shot for his ailing lower back.

"I met with J.D. a couple of times, and the doctors," said Francona. "He got an injection just in a point of tenderness, not an epidural. But then on top of that, he had a death in the family. He's going to go back [home]. He'll join us in [St. Petersburg]. He didn't have a real good day."

Drew's grandmother died on Friday. With Drew out of the mix for the rest of the weekend, the Red Sox have Jonathan Van Every -- recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier on Friday -- available off the bench.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp and Mark Kotsay will continue to hold down center field and right.

Even before his latest setback and death in the family, Drew didn't sound overly optimistic about returning Saturday.

"We'll see how things go today, and we'll see if I can play a game tomorrow," Drew said before the game. "I've been taking swings here and there, and having good days and bad days. Some days I take some swings and can't hardly move, and some days I take swings and feel pretty good. So we'll see."

It has been a frustrating ordeal for Drew, who is hitting .280 with 19 homers and 64 RBIs.

The plan on Wednesday was for Drew to be available off the bench. But in what wound up a 14-inning game, he couldn't play because the back stiffened again shortly before game time.

"It's tough when somebody tells you that they hurt. As much as you want them to not hurt, you can't tell them that," Francona said. "So you do the best you can. We've been patient, and so to get impatient doesn't make a lot of sense."

What about the criticism Drew often receives in Boston talk show circles -- that he doesn't play through pain enough?

"My thing is not going out there and trying to be a hero and be stupid, and not being able to track down fly balls the way I'm capable of and not being able to get hits and swing the bat," said Drew. "But the fact of the matter is if it gets bad enough, you can't play. It's not an injury you can play through. When it's locked up, there's no swinging and there's no running. That's been the frustrating part."

The good part is that general manager Theo Epstein was able to get a solid replacement for Drew last month in Kotsay.

"Kotsay's been a huge addition, and, fortunately, has filled in nice and given Tito some options," said Drew. "I've expressed to Tito and the training staff wanting to get back in there as quickly as possible, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way."

Does Drew think he can make a contribution through the rest of the season and into October?

"I'm confident, but like I said, I can't predict what is going to happen," said Drew. "I know what's going on. I know I have a herniated disk, and I know we have some capable players that can go out there and do a good job."

The one thing Drew does know is that this is no time of year to be on the bench.

"This is the time you look forward to, going down the stretch toward October and being in a pennant race," said Drew. "So, obviously, I don't enjoy watching. I want to be out there playing."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.