June 2007

A great first half

Mariners300_1We definitely have a bad streak going in Seattle, so it was good to get out of there ?- for now. I?m glad we get to go back there in August to try and redeem ourselves, though.

Last year it was tough because we had a lot of injuries. I had the flu and missed two games. Manny was injured. We just didn?t have the whole team out there. This year, we were in some ball games but we just couldn?t finish them. That was the biggest thing. We just couldn?t seal the deal on a couple of them. But that?s just baseball. We move on. In this case, we got to come home from a long road trip and get back in front of our home crowd again.

All players like to win on a get-away day. We joke about that all the time. We always tell each other that we want a "happy flight." The long flight from Seattle wasn?t one of them, though. Getting swept leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But it was still good to get back to Boston.

We landed at about 3:30 a.m., so it was nice to have that off day so we could get everyone acclimated to being in Boston again. For me, an off day like that, after getting in so late, means sleeping as long as I can, then catching up on some of the stuff you can?t tend to while you?re on the road.

You don?t get very many days off in this job during the season, so you try to take advantage of them. I spend most off days just trying to enjoy some of the things that you can?t enjoy very much during the season.

My off day was relaxing, although I did have an autograph signing obligation in the evening, actually a makeup for a signing session that got rained out earlier in the season. It wasn?t that bad, though. I still had a nice day off.

***

Defense200I?d never really heard of Stuffy McInnis before this week. In fact, I didn?t even know I?d set a record until our PR director, John Blake, came up to me and told me the media wanted to talk about setting the record -? going 120 games without an error at first base. It was exciting to know I?d set the record, but it kind of took me by surprise.

It?s great, though. I take a lot of pride in my defense. You play for your teammates. I love the idea of helping out our pitching staff or picking up one of the guys across the diamond on a bad throw. As a third baseman most of my career, I know what it?s like to throw the ball in the dirt and I know how it feels to have a good first baseman make a good scoop and save an error.

As an infielder your confidence rises when you know you have someone at first base who can make a lot of plays. But I?m pretty fortunate, too, because we have a group of infielders who throw the ball very well.

I played first base my senior year in high school and I played over at first for about a month in high A ball at the beginning of my career, so it wasn?t completely new to me when I moved over to first. It wasn?t completely new to me but it wasn?t something I?d been doing on a daily basis, either.

I?ve had a lot of help becoming a first baseman in the Major Leagues, too. Last year, DeMarlo Hale, was our infield coordinator and he helped a lot. Terry Francona was a first baseman so he had a lot to offer. Brad Mills, our bench coach, has been great. Dave McCarty and J.T. Snow were always giving me pointers a couple years ago.

But really it?s a matter of getting a lot of repetitions. You need to take a lot of ground balls and get to the point where you have confidence and a good feel for the position. A lot of it for me was trying to transfer my third base skills across the diamond.

***

Drew350We?ve had a great first half.  We feel we could have done a little better here and there and we know we can definitely be better than we are right now but, on the other hand, we?re in a good position and have a nice lead in our division.

Now we need to keep building on our lead. There?s no such thing as enough cushion in the AL East with the quality of our opponents. We need to keep putting more ground between us and the second- and third-place teams in the second half. We don?t want them getting any closer.

***

As for the All-Star break, it will be nice to get a few days of rest. We?re playing it by ear at this point. We?ve talked about staying around the New England area and finding a beach resort or maybe going out to Vegas. I?ll let you know how it works out.

Fun weekend ahead

Soxfans500

Wow. I never realized I?d get such a huge response, especially on my first post. It sounds like most of you liked the name ?Yooooouuuuukkkkk? so it?s officially a keeper. Anyway, it?s great to get another reminder that Red Sox Nation is out there behind us in numbers. Not that it surprises me, though, because we probably have the most intense fans in the game. There?s something really special about the relationship between the fans and the Red Sox.

Ortiz200We?re in a stretch of Interleague Play right now. It?s nice to see some of the other teams and players and stadiums. But we?re not at full strength when we play at NL parks, so in that sense it?s a difficult situation for our club. We have three of our middle-of-the-order guys to fill two lineup spots when there?s no designated hitter, leaving someone out in each of those games.

When we were in Arizona, I sat a game, played third base for a game and played first base for a game. I thought Tito did a great job in making sure that each of us play two out of three games and each of us got a rest. As a younger player, I can?t ask for more. David and Mike Lowell are established veteran players. Those guys are owed the opportunity to play if they want to play, so I?m just glad to get in the games.

We have another six games at Atlanta and San Diego coming up so I?d expect we?ll do similar juggling of the lineup. Part of the equation has to be whether we?re facing a left-hander in a particular series. If we are, that?s the obvious day for David to get a rest. If we?re facing three right-handers, that makes the puzzle a little more difficult. Our club usually finds a way to put a pretty good lineup out there, so I?m not too concerned about it.

Bonds200jpgThis weekend the Giants are visiting us. I?m sure there will be a bigger-than-usual media turnout with Barry Bonds coming to town, but we always have a big media contingent, so adding a few more won?t make a difference. It?s just another day at the ballpark for us. We played against the Giants and Barry a couple years ago, in my first season. It was a lot of fun playing against someone of that caliber. It should be even more fun this year as he?s counting down toward becoming the home run king.

One thing for certain is that Barry will be hearing from the fans at Fenway Park, just like all of the opposing superstars who come to town. At Fenway Park, it?s about the Red Sox winning and the fans know which guys have the best chance of getting in the way of us winning a game. It?s going to be loud and exciting.

In baseball it?s a compliment to get booed by the opposing fans. As a player you take it as a badge of honor to be told "you stink" by the other club?s fans. My first year or so nobody told me I stink, but this year I?m beginning to hear it more and I take that as a compliment. When you?re doing well or part of a club that?s doing well, you tend to get heckled more.

I?ve also got family and friends in town for the homestand this weekend to help celebrate Father?s Day, so this is shaping up as a fun weekend all the way around. My mom and dad (Mike and Carolyn), some cousins and friends from college are all here in Boston. I?m fortunate to be able to stay close to the most important people in my life.

It can get a little hectic with a big group here but they?re really considerate about giving me the space and time I need to prepare for the games. My parents have always been there for me. They travel a lot to come see me, like Mother?s Day and Father?s Day. Everybody who meets them tells me they?re the greatest, but I already know that.

They?re not staying with my girlfriend Enza and me this time. We only have one extra bedroom in our townhouse. So since my cousins and everyone are in town, too, they?re all at the hotel so they can hang out together when I?m not around.

Until next time?.

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