SARASOTA, Fla. - Brian Cashman made clear the Yankees' plans at second base when he signed Stephen Drew in January but, lest there be any confusion, Joe Girardi reiterated them Tuesday.
"Our plan is for it to be Stephen," Girardi said. "We signed him to be our second baseman."
Of the Yankees' offseason moves, perhaps none was met with the combination of indifference and hostility from fans as the signing of Drew to a one-year deal worth $5 million.
Drew, who turns 32 Monday, never got his sea legs last season, hitting a combined .162 with a .237 on-base percentage with the Red Sox and Yankees.
Although he said it's "not an excuse," Drew wasn't helped by the fact that he didn't sign with the Red Sox until May 20. The shortstop declined Boston's qualifying offer just after the 2013 season and a multi-year deal he and his agent, Scott Boras, envisioned, never materialized.
"Last year, I just kind of jumped into the thick of things real quick," Drew said Tuesday after starting at second base and going 0-for-3 in the Yankees' 3-1 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. "Last year was definitely a challenge. I was rushing the game trying to play catch-up. Being here now is definitely a bonus for me."
A shortstop throughout his career, Drew joined the Yankees at the trade deadline and was switched to second base. Though learning a new position, Drew was still an upgrade in the field over Brian Roberts, more than holding his own. Things, however, actually got worse at the plate with the Yankees as he hit .150 with a .219 OBP in 46 games.
The Yankees are banking on a rebound season from Drew, who has been far more productive than he was last season. In helping the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2013, Drew hit .253 with a .333 on-base percentage with 13 homers and 67 RBIs. Those are hardly Robinson Cano numbers, but they're numbers the Yankees would sign up for right now.
"We expect him to be a productive hitter, to get back to the form he was at before last year," Joe Girardi said. "When you miss spring training . . . I think you get behind and then you start off slow and you try to make things up and it just makes things worse. We feel he'll get back to the form that he was at."
Being in camp should help Drew at the plate, but the infielder said far more important is the work he's getting in the field. Last year was a crash course for him in learning second base and he's been able to continue that work this spring at a more relaxed pace.
"I need to practice that area to make it more normal before the season begins," Drew said. "Last year, I was pretty much on a whim, learning on the go."
But the veteran is comfortable with the progress he's making.
"It's definitely been a learning process," Drew said. "But at the same time, I feel pretty good over there."