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BoSox skipper Farrell defends SS Drew

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell defended shortstop Stephen Drew, who is hitting only .059 in the AL championship series against the Detroit Tigers.

''There's been a lot calling for Stephen's head, seemingly,'' Farrell said Friday before Boston's workout to prepare for Game 6. ''But he's a very good player, and in these games defense is a premium. And when a defensive play hasn't been made and you give a team an extra out, as good as these two teams are, you're likely going to pay for that.''

Drew has just one hit in his last 25 at_bats, with eight strikeouts. But Farrell said his defense - he's made one error in the playoffs - is worth keeping around.

So when the manager went looking for a way to get rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts into the lineup, he took out third baseman Will Middlebrooks instead. Middlebrooks is batting .100 in the series.

''Stephen has taken good swings,'' Farrell said. ''We all recognize the struggles that are there. But he shores up the middle of our infield so well, I'm certainly going to preserve that. And, yes, Stephen will be in the lineup tomorrow.''

Drew said he never lets his offensive struggles affect him in the field.

''Hopefully, I can work out of it pretty soon and I'll be able to help out in an offensive way,'' he said. ''The great thing is the team's winning. That's all that matters.''


ON THE MEND: Cardinals injured cleanup hitter Allen Craig could be ready to serve as the designated hitter if St. Louis advances to the World Series.

Craig took early batting practice Friday, facing a trio of pitchers not on the NLCS roster, and manager Mike Matheny called it a good day.

Jaime Garcia is rehabbing from midseason shoulder surgery, Jake Westbrook was rarely used the final month of an injury-interrupted year and Sam Freeman likely lost out to Edward Mujica for the final roster spot.

''It didn't look like he really missed much, to be honest with you,'' Matheny said. ''Really wasn't a timing issue. He said he felt good, so that's all things pointing in a positive direction.''

Craig led the majors with a .454 average with runners in scoring position and was among the league leaders with 97 RBIs. He's been out since early September with a left mid-foot sprain, a fluke injury sustained stepping off first base.


KEEP IT LOOSE: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly took a light approach to his pregame news conference Friday.

He noted he was ''0-for my predictions of medical health'' after leaving Hanley Ramirez out of the Game 6 lineup. He also joked advance scouting was good to defend the Cardinals' ''pick and roll'' and to help devise ''different ways to get Adrian (Gonzalez) open in the corner.''

Win or lose, Mattingly said participants should savor the experience.

''Being in the playoffs is fun,'' he said. ''I know it's serious and everybody's trying to win, but it's a time you should have fun and enjoy what we're doing.''

As a player, Mattingly made one playoff appearance in a 14-year career. He batted .417 for the New York Yankees in a five-game division series loss to the Seattle Mariners in 1995, his final season.

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