Drew is a natural talent - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Drew is a natural talent

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Posted: Saturday, March 11, 2006 12:23 am | Updated: 2:46 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Stephen Drew has made the transition to major league camp appear as effortless as fielding a two-hopper. His designation as the Diamondbacks' shortstop of the future is seemingly more secure than ever.

"A natural,'' D-Backs manager Bob Melvin called Drew.

"He's got one of those swings, similar to (Chad) Tracy, that plays any time. Christmas Day. Jan. 15.''

The early days of March.

Drew has four hits in his 10 spring at-bats, with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs.

He homered in his second game on March 3; after missing five days with a sore shoulder suffered on a head-first dive that day, he hit a two-run double against Colorado in his first game back.

"He tracks the ball. He doesn't panic. He doesn't get out on his front foot. He lets the ball travel,'' Melvin said, ticking off traits that define a major league hitter.

It is an aptitude worthy of the $5.3 million major league contract Drew signed May 30, 15 minutes before he would have reentered the draft pool after being the D-Backs' No. 1 draft choice in 2004.

Drew is from a major league family — brothers J.D. and Tim also were No. 1 draft choices — and it shows.

"He's very composed. It doesn't look like a whole lot bothers him,'' Melvin said. "Things aren't racing for him. You can tell he's been around the game some.''

Melvin said he believes Drew compares favorably with J.D., an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers who had 31 homers and 93 RBIs with Atlanta in 2004.

"Certainly his brother (J.D.) is a guy who gets your attention whenever he is in the lineup,'' Melvin said.

"(Stephen), to me, looks a little more like a natural. He's a very instinctive player.''

Drew, 23, seems to understand his time will come shortly, but as for now he is "just trying to play hard and see where it takes me.''

"I'm just trying to be a sponge, soak up everything I can," Drew said. “You have to know what's going on every minute of the game, especially at shortstop. I have to be a leader out there.''

Drew is almost certain to open the season at Triple-A Tucson, where he can play every day and continue his development.

At the same time, there is a slight chance Drew's major league clock could start in about three weeks.

The D-Backs are hoping for the best regarding Craig Counsell's shoulder injury but are planning for all contingencies - one includes Drew opening the season as the regular shortstop if Counsell is unavailable for an extended period, say a month or so.

"If Stephen were here, he'd play,'' Melvin said of Drew's chances of making the major league roster.

"So it comes down to Counsell's situation. Right now, if everything goes on schedule, he should be ready.

"We don't want to bring Stephen up and not play him.''

Counsell is tentatively scheduled to begin baseball activity by the middle of next week. On that timetable, he would be healthy enough to open the regular season.

"When he starts throwing and hitting, obviously, will dictate when he is going to be ready,'' Melvin said.

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