LOWELL — Players and coaches from both teams crowded around home plate, watching J.D. Drew blast pitch after pitch over the wall with a simple flick of his wrists.
It was the picture-perfect swing that the Red Sox hope to see return for the World Series run this fall, and the swing that had been absent for nearly the entire season.
"I know what I am still capable of when I am healthy and feeling good," said Drew in a one-on-one interview after the batting practice display at LeLacheur Park. "It's (Red Sox manager Terry) Francona's job to put the lineup together. But I have played the game long enough to know. I want to get back and contribute for the Red Sox."
Drew took the first step towards returning to the Red Sox lineup last night, with a rehab start for the Lowell Spinners, who lost to Tri-City, 8-4.
With Hurricane Irene heading our way, Drew's next stop will likely be Pawtucket.
The designated hitter went 0 for 2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch.
Each of the veteran outfielder's at-bats was met with loud cheers, and a spattering of boos that follow one of the most polarizing Red Sox players in decades.
He has suffered through, by his own admission, a very rough season.
"This has been maybe the toughest season for me," he said. "I had a decent May, then after that I was battling to have one good at-bat a game."
Through 77 games this year, Drew, 35, was scuffling through the worst slump of his 14-year major league career. He was hitting a career-low .219, including just .146 in July, with only four home runs and had lost his full-time starting job to then-red hot Josh Reddick.