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Stephen Drew gets chance to play shortstop again, for one game

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41), Yankees

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41), Yankees second baseman Brendan Ryan (17) and Yankees shortstop Stephen Drew look toward first after Detroit Tigers pinch hitter Miguel Cabrera grounded into a ninth-inning double play with Martinez and Kinsler on base in a game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

Stephen Drew has said the right things, that adjusting to second base is a small price to pay for being a Yankee, that it's an honor to share an infield with Derek Jeter.

But after playing shortstop for the first time as a Yankee on Thursday, Drew had to admit it "definitely felt good'' and that he obviously is most comfortable at his old position.

Playing shortstop for the Yankees . . . a fella could get used to that. Not that Drew would say that. "I haven't even thought about it,'' he said of potentially replacing the retiring Jeter next year. "I'm just focusing on this year.''

Naturally. But starting Drew at shortstop, with Jeter given the day off, perhaps gave the Yankees and their fans a glimpse at the "6'' position in 2015. Drew's ground-rule double in the fourth inning drove in the game's only run.

"It's kind of been a crazy year for me,'' Drew said. "Everybody pretty much got three months on me and I feel like I'm playing catch-up. But things are finally starting to come along.''

Drew didn't sign until late May. He rejected a qualifying offer to return to the Red Sox last winter and remained a free agent before re-signing for one year with Boston. Drew has struggled to get untracked offensively -- hitting .175 with four homers -- in large part because of the late start.

Since being traded to the Yankees last week, he also has had to learn to play second base on the fly. On Thursday, Joe Girardi started Brendan Ryan at second and said he wanted to "see how it looks.'' Not bad.

And for the lovers of defensive metrics, Drew has a career 4.17 range factor at shortstop -- better than Jeter's in any season since 2005.

"Good defense and timely hitting is what worked for us today,'' said Drew, who was part of that defensive effort and who delivered the timely hit. "That RBI double was huge.''

With runners on first and third in the sixth, he also was part of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play that helped Shane Greene escape a jam.

"Growing up watching Jeter, and playing short myself, I loved the way he did things,'' Drew said, adding that he also tried to model himself after Omar Vizquel. "I want to learn as much as I can from him while we're teammates.''

Drew lacks the big name, and even the statistical resume, to appear to be an ideal replacement for a beloved icon. But the 31-year-old has been solid throughout his career, and should the Yankees not go the headline-grabbing route in replacing Jeter, Drew could be at least an adequate fill-in.

And if Thursday served as a mini-audition at shortstop, he at least earned himself a call-back.

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