Closing Time: Stephen Drew wakes up

Scott Pianowski
July 22, 2014
Ortiz homers twice, Red Sox rout Blue Jays 14-1
Boston Red Sox's Stephen Drew hits a three-run home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Monday, July 21, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

I used to be disgusted with Stephen Drew (and the whole family, really). Now I try to be amused. We just want numbers, we don't care where they come from.

While Drew didn't go bananas in his first Boston season, a .253-57-13-67-6 line over 124 games is handy for a middle infielder. If your league required a middle-infield fill, Drew was probably owned in your league last year.

Alas, Drew's agent misread the free-agent market, and Drew sat on his couch while the phone didn't ring. No team wanted to sign Drew - especially with a compensatory pick attached - and the stalemate dragged into the season. Eventually the slumping Red Sox bailed out their reluctant infielder, offering a one-year, $10 million lifeline in May.

Drew arrived in The Hub after a mere week of minor-league prep, and maybe that speedy timetable was a mistake. When the calendar hit July, he was carrying a sorry .143/.169/.190 line, with zero homers. The seasonal stats still don't look like much, but let's note how Drew has rallied in July. He's hit three homers and drawn nine walks this month (that's a Drew thing; they like to watch), and he's on a 7-for-17 binge over his last five games.

Drew was at the centre of Monday's 14-1 rout over the Blue Jays, with a homer, single, walk, and four RBIs. He also scored a couple of runs. Drew's owned in just four percent of Yahoo leagues, a surprisingly-low tag. Shortstop isn't that easy of a fill, amigos. This looks like someone finally warmed up and ready to go. Don't be one of those "wait for extended proof" dinosaurs; to win a competitive mixed league, you need to be proactive. 

It was a fun night to sit back and watch the Boston lineup do its thing, so long as you weren't expecting anything from Dustin Pedroia (4-0-0-0; doesn't look healthy at all) or Shane Victorino (night off). David Ortiz cranked a couple of homers, while Mike Napoli had a homer and three hits. Brock Holt did his usual thing (two hits, two runs, one nifty outfield catch). Heck, Daniel Nava (5-2-3-0) has been terrific since his recall, hitting .350 (with a .429 OBP) over 103 at-bats. The Victorino activation crowds the lineup, but we know Holt is going to play somewhere, and Nava might stick around, too. 

• Most managers don't want a closer-by-committee when you really get down to it. The c-word is just a way to buy time, a holding pattern until someone proves they deserve the baton. A designated closer makes managing easier, and sometimes helps to dodge criticism. For every Joe Maddon (who might be fine with the ninth-inning shuffling), there are at least 8-10 skippers who want a set-and-forget option - as soon as that option steps forward.

What does Robin Ventura want in Chicago? Heaven only knows. Zach Putnum notched a couple of weekend saves (Friday and Saturday), then sat on the sidelines while Jacob Petricka did the work Monday against Kansas City. Putnum was rested Sunday, so that's not the issue here. And recall Putnum's Saturday save came after Petricka messed up the ninth.

Putnum has the better strikeout and walk numbers,  and both pitchers have exceptional ground-ball rates. Place your bets. I'm glad I'm not invested in any Ventura relievers at the moment. This looks like a rare case where the manager is fine with an unorthodox approach; heck, it almost seems like Ventura likes throwing everyone for a nightly loop, keeping the public (and the opponent) guessing. 

• Offensive numbers from the Pacific Coast League come with extra suspicion, especially when they originate from Colorado Springs. Nonetheless, Ben Paulsen is probably worth a FAAB throw or waiver-priority toss this week. He's stepping into the Rockies lineup while Justin Morneau (neck) is on the disabled list, and Paulsen brings a .291/.380/.525 line with him (15 homers) through 95 Triple-A games. He batted sixth on Monday, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Full disclosure, Paulsen is already 26 (he's not some shiny young prospect) and as a lefty hitter, he might not play every day. But when you see a Colorado homestand in progress, how can you refuse? I'll probably take a FA stab in my own leagues, though I'll consider what he does Tuesday before I finalize anything.

Adam Duvall is another PCL first-base slugger making the rounds; he's on his second hitch with the Giants, stepping in for Brandon Belt (concussion). Duvall rocked a .303/.361/.626 line at Fresno, with 26 homers in 78 games. He's only 5-for-23 with the Giants (no walks, six strikeouts), though he's gone deep twice. He connected on Cliff Lee in Monday's victory, a smash into the shrubbery.

• One of the most shocking moments of the first half came June 30 at Detroit, when Sean Doolittle blew a save at Comerica Park. The game ended on a Rajai Davis grand slam, with an Austin Jackson walk as prelude. No one plays those lottery numbers.

Maybe Jackson's improbable walk (which came on an extended at-bat, a bunch of spoiled pitches) sparked his recent comeback. He's been Detroit's leadoff man for most of July, en route to a .357/.403/.571 line. He's scored 13 times in 17 games for the month; the Tigers, of course, have excellent run producers behind Jackson. He's not providing a ton of category juice, though he did homer in Monday's win. There's still time to fix your season, Action Jackson. 

Justin Verlander and Joe Nathan also figured in the Detroit victory; Verlander (6.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) made it into the seventh and Nathan retired three of four men en route to his 20th save. The Tigers are still looking for bullpen help, of course; they're one of the teams linked to Jonathan Papelbon. It's obviously not my decision to make, but I don't expexct Nathan (5.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) will last the full season as closer.