TUCSON, Ariz. — Stephen Drew let his play Thursday answer the criticism leveled at him by managing partner Ken Kendrick, who earlier this week questioned Drew’s commitment to returning to the Diamondbacks this season.
Drew singled in his first at-bat and made the defensive play of the game in his first rehab game for Class AAA Reno against Tucson at the D-backs’ former spring training home, Tucson Electric Park. Reno won 4-2 in 12 innings in what was Drew’s first official game since suffering a season-ending ankle injury on July 20, 2011.
In his most biting comments, Kendrick said, “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. He should have been out there playing by now. I for one am disappointed.”
That made two of them.
“I understand his frustration. I really do. I understand that things weren’t going well. It was a little disappointing with questioning my integrity, because the guys who have been around me for seven years, including Ken, know what kind of guy I am,” Drew said.
“I give it all I have on the field. My teammates know what I have done to prepare myself. I didn’t have an offseason. I barely had any off days. I had the best help I possibly could with people who have known about this injury to get back as soon as possible, not only for my teammates but for myself.
“It’s one of those things where I miss playing the game. You get something taken away, you really realize how much you do love the game. It’s behind me. Hopefully it’s behind Ken and the whole organization. I want to be out there. With the type of injury I had, I knew it was going to be a long road.”
Drew showed his typical range and athleticism while making the play of the game, a sliding catch of Yasmani Grandal’s foul pop down the left-field foul line to end the sixth inning. Drew made a long run to reach the ball and clipped third baseman Ryan Wheeler’s legs as he slid past. It was the kind of play that could put to rest any questions about his commitment to return this season.
Drew is 10 1/2 months removed from suffering a spiral fracture in his right ankle and ligament damage on a play at the plate. Drew’s ankle twisted at a 180-degree angle, and he put it back in place while lying in the dirt around home. It was considered a more severe injury than Buster Posey’s because of the spiral fracture.
“It was a good test, because I haven’t done that in 11 months, either,” Drew said. “It was a good feeling to know that I could still do that. Not knowing after 11 months, and Wheeler, the 6-4 guy right by me, just about to run me over. We actually did hit, but it was kind of in between. It was good that we didn’t both go down for it.
“I didn’t want to get run over by him.”
Drew, hitting third in the order, played the first 8 1/2 innings, leaving on a defensive change in the last of the ninth inning. He caught two popups but was not involved in any other defensive plays.
He singled on the second pitch he saw in the first inning, hitting a line drive over the first baseman’s head before being forced at second base on Wheeler’s grounder to shortstop. Drew flew out to center field in the fourth inning and reached on an infield error in the seventh, turning second base hard and getting to third on A.J. Pollock’s double into the left field corner.
Tucson also treated Drew’s first game as the real deal. With runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth inning, the Padres brought in left-handed specialist Josh Spence to face Drew. Drew flied to center field to end the inning.
“I was telling the guys that’s the first time I faced a left-hander in 11 months, too,” Drew said.
Drew is earning $7.75 million this season, and he and the D-backs have a mutual $10 million option with a $1.35 million buyout for 2013.
“I’m not even worried about that right now,” Drew said when asked if Kendrick’s comments would affect his plans for next year.
“For me, it’s getting healthy, doing what I can do down here to progress. I’m not even worried about next year. I’m worried about this year and seeing how it goes.”
Drew said he has not spoken to Kendrick since the comments.