It's not often remembered, but hidden in the fine print of J.D. Drew's $70 million, five-year contract is a stipulation that the Red Sox can release the 34-year-old outfielder if it is determined that his abilities have been significantly impaired as the result of shoulder injuries sustained before he came to Boston.
Having reached a personal, Red Sox high of 24 homers while batting .279 in 137 games last year, Drew so far has had little reason to fear that he will lose his job. Perhaps mindful, however, that baseball careers can end in an instant, Drew is taking no chances.
Drew began pre-season conditioning last month after being shut down for yet another shoulder surgery in October, this one to remove bone spurs so aggravating that he was unable to play last season without being treated with two cortisone injections.
"I had...days when it was a lot worse than others," Drew recently told The Boston Globe's Amalie Benjamin. "The worst part of it was the batting cage and...repetition of swinging the bat. (It) kind of got it aggravated."
Even though the condition worsened as the season wore on, he hit .355 with 12 homers and 30 RBI in the second half of the season, not counting an 0-22 streak immediately after the All-Star game. With that kind of potential, the Red Sox won't begrudge a little downtime for him, if that's what it takes to keep him healthy.
It's a much better alternative than voiding his contract.