Injured Drew is gradually forming a fragile reputation

Friday, March 8, 2002

JUPITER, Fla. -- J.D. Drew is hurt again, typical for the St. Louis Cardinals' right fielder.

Drew missed five exhibition games after spraining his left ankle in warmups. But he is expected back in the lineup by the weekend and said if it were the regular season, he'd be playing.

"It's the way things go sometimes," Drew said. "I didn't roll it too good, just enough to aggravate it, and I don't worry about it too much. I'll get it back in shape and get ready to go."

Drew said he won't wear an air cast, or even an ankle brace, when he returns.

"It's too much of an inconvenience to me," he said. "I need to be mobile. I hope I can just tape it up real good. Besides, I can hardly get a shoe on with this thing."

The ankle also could be viewed as the latest sign that Drew is a rather brittle young star. Last year, he was limited to 109 games by a broken finger and lower back sprain. In 2000, he severely sprained his right ankle.

In three full seasons, the 26-year-old Drew hasn't had more than 407 at-bats in a year.

"Sometimes that stuff happens early in your career," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "And then you break away from it and it never bothers you again."

Drew doesn't know why he can't stay healthy.

"I prepare myself to play the whole year and it's not like I'm out of shape or blowing an arm out or something like that," Drew said. "It's all active injuries that come with playing hard."

Drew made the most of his limited playing time last year, batting .323 with 27 homers, 73 RBIs and 80 runs scored. He also hit .360 with runners in scoring position -- third-best in the National League.

Drew got hit by a pitch from David Wells of the Chicago White Sox on June 17, breaking his right little finger. That knocked him out for 35 games.

"I felt as good as I have at any time in my career, and an inside fastball puts a damper on that for a while," Drew said.

Drew returned July 31, and had two hits and two RBIs in his first game back. But seven days later he sprained his lower back sprain and missed another 12 games.

In 2000, he severely rolled his right ankle, an injury that Drew said was much worse than his current sprain.

"I'm just kind of a victim of my environment," he said. "I've always been 110 percent every time I step out there, so if it's going to find anybody it's going to find me and I don't have time to worry about where I'm stepping when I'm going 100 mph."

Ankiel may miss second start

Rick Ankiel's scheduled start on Friday was bypassed earlier this week due to elbow pain, and now his next start also is in jeopardy.

The plan for the 22-year-old left-hander, attempting to come back after wildness landed him in rookie league ball last year, had called for him to throw in the bullpen on Friday. But his condition is not improving quickly enough, and now he may just play a bit of catch on flat ground.

"I don't think he'll pitch Wednesday against the Mets if he's not getting a lot of work over the weekend," La Russa said.

Prospect Josh Pearce, a second-round draft pick in 1999, will start in place of Ankiel today against the Minnesota Twins. Pearce, 24, threw a scoreless inning of relief in the spring opener Feb. 28.

Myers shines in 'B' game

Brett Myers, one of the Phillies' top pitching prospects, struck out eight and allowed one hit in four innings in a scoreless "B" game against the Cardinals earlier Thursday. The Cardinals' Les Walrond also was impressive, giving up one hit in four innings.

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