PHOENIX — Frustration with the Diamondbacks’ sluggish start has hit the board room.
D-backs managing partner Ken Kendrick took on Stephen Drew and Justin Upton in telephone interviews with Brad Cesmat on the Pros2preps.com website on Monday, questioning Drew’s commitment to returning to the field this season and calling Upton an “enigma.”
Drew is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment for Triple-A Reno on Thursday after suffering ankle and ligament damage last July 20. But it’s not happening quickly enough to suit Kendrick, who has watched the D-backs open 25-30 in defense of their NL West title.
“I think Stephen should have been out there playing by now. I, for one, am disappointed,” Kendrick said.
“I’m going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where he is going to be a year from now than going ahead and supporting the team that is paying his salary. All you can do is hope that the player is treating the situation with integrity. We have our concerns.”
Kendrick said he has not talked directly with Drew, “but others have.”
Kendrick’s words prompted a quick response from Scott Boras, Drew’s agent.
“You never want to question a player’s integrity. Take a look at the film. You tell me what that kid has given to that franchise,” Boras said, referring to the play at the plate on which Drew suffered his ankle injury.
“That is giving you all for your team. The effort he showed in trying to score on that play is the same effort he is displaying to get back in to the lineup.”
The D-backs are paying Drew $7.75 million this season and the sides have a mutual $10 million option with a $1.35 million buyout for 2013. It did not sound as if Kendrick would be willing to pick up the option. Boras said he did not believe Kendrick’s words would affect Drew’s decision.
“Those are Stephen’s decisions,” Boras said.
“Ken is a very passionate owner,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “We know that. He cares a lot about the city, about the team, about the organization and baseball in general. I am not privy to those comments, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on that situation.
“Stephen has come in here, and he’s doing what we’ve asked him to do. I told you all along [that] when he’s comfortable and he’s ready to play [he will return]. We can’t force him to play.
Upton was fourth in the NL MVP voting last season with a career year, finishing with 31 homers, 88 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .289 batting average. He is hitting .243 with five home runs and 20 RBI this season. He was bothered by a bone bruise in his left thumb that cost him four games in the second week of the season, but has not missed a game because of injury since.
“I think Justin is an enigma at this point,” Kendrick said. “I know he had an injury. It was something of a nagging injury, but he’s played.
“He’s certainly not the Justin Upton he has been in the past, and we would expect of him. He’s 24 years old. It’s time for him to be a consistent performer, and he’s not been that.”
Upton is in the third year of a six-year, $51.45 million contract, which is worth $6.75 million this season and jumps to $9.75 million in 2013.
After the game, Upton said he was unaware of Kendrick’s comments. They were relayed to him.
“That’s his opinion. To be honest with you, I don’t have a comment on it. He’s going to say what he needs to say. He’s the one who makes the decisions around here. Whatever he thinks about me, that’s ultimately his decision,” Upton said.