FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -J.D. Drew faced frustrations his first season in Fenway Park – but none as trying as the ones he faced at home.

The Red Sox right fielder’s 1-year-old son, Jack, underwent extensive surgery during the season to correct a developmental displacement of the hips.

“I had distractions of a different nature last year,” Drew said.

“I know it’s intense in Boston. I know there’s a lot of coverage. But I’ve always felt like I put as much pressure on myself than could come from any outside source.”

His switch to the American League, coupled with the procedure that left Jack in a body cast for six weeks, made for a 2007 he said was “hard to explain.”

He hit .270 with a career-low 11 homers and 64 RBIs, including a career-long 51-game homerless streak that stretched through much of the summer.

Drew was outstanding in right, but his successes at the plate were so infrequent that fans called him a high-priced bust even as he hit .393 with four homers over the last three weeks of the regular season.

That all changed with one swing in the playoffs, when he launched a first-inning grand slam off Fausto Carmona in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in October.

“It was a big relief off my shoulders, from the standpoint that we just got a four-run lead and I got a huge hit in the postseason,” said Drew, who hit .314 with 14 RBIs in the playoffs.

“It definitely went a long way.”

The strong finish, coupled with the Red Sox’s second championship in four years, has awarded the 32-year-old a fresh start of sorts, an opportunity to move past the early struggles in Boston and focus on building off his strong finish.

“I know I didn’t have the year I wanted to have, but a lot of guys played really well, kept me above water most of the year and when we got into the playoffs I came up with some big hits,” he said.

“We were able to win a World Series ring, so it’s hard to complain about that.”

Or much else, for that matter.

Jack celebrated his second birthday Tuesday on the same day his father reported to camp.

He’ll be re-evaluated by doctors and could require a second surgery, but he’s progressing as expected.

Meanwhile, Drew and his wife, Sheigh, welcomed their second child, daughter Ella, a week after the team’s victory parade through Boston.

“My wife would say different, but for me, deer hunting was on the back burner this offseason with the kids,” he said.

“I have a blast hanging out with them.”

Nor does Drew have to worry about being the new player replacing Trot Nixon, a fan favorite.

Terry Francona was walking through the clubhouse at the team’s player development complex this week when he heard Drew mercilessly teasing teammate Dustin Pedroia.

“Just wearing him out,” Francona said. “I remember thinking, good, he’s a little more comfortable. I don’t know if Pedroia feels that way.”

Francona said last season was tough for Drew, on and off the field.

“I think at times he felt that (pressure) last year, whether out loud or quietly,” Francona said. “When he’s hitting the ball like that grand slam, he’s producing runs and we’re obviously a better team.”

Notes: After skipping Thursday’s conditioning run, Manny Ramirez took the field for the first full-squad workout Friday morning. … The workout started 15 minutes earlier than usual and was abbreviated so that players could participate in an annual golf tournament benefiting the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. … Francona, GM Theo Epstein, owner John Henry and President/CEO Larry Lucchino met with the team before taking the field for the first practice. “I try to keep my message to a minimum,” Francona said. “At the same time, you have a responsibility of telling players how you feel about them. We try to be concise, short and to the point, but it is an important day.”

AP-ES-02-22-08 1336EST


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.