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Stephen Drew heating up, hopes full spring training will help

New York Yankees' Stephen Drew throws out Houston

New York Yankees' Stephen Drew throws out Houston Astros' Robbie Grossman at first base in the fourth inning of an exhibition spring training game on Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Kissimmee, Fla. Credit: AP / DG

TAMPA, Fla. - For most of spring training, Stephen Drew looked like his 2014 self, which, for those who need reminding, was not a good thing.

The 32-year-old second baseman, who hit .150 with a .219 on-base percentage in 46 games for the Yankees last season, saw his exhibition average fall to .167 (6-for-36) on March 25 when he went 0-for-2 against the Mets.

But Drew's bat has shown signs of life since then. He's gone 5-for-9 in the last three games, including two doubles and a homer. That lifted his batting average to .244 and his OBP to .306, hardly eye-popping numbers but at least signs of progress.

"I'm not really worried about the results, more the outcome of how I feel," Drew said over the weekend. "And that's getting comfortable, getting that feeling back that I haven't had. I mean, I haven't had a spring training in three years."

Drew was signed to a one-year, $5-million contract in the offseason, by far general manager Brian Cashman's most unpopular move as far as fans are concerned. But Drew has long maintained that a full spring training is the key to a rebound season.

He missed 2012 camp because of a broken right ankle, most of spring training in 2013 because of a concussion and all of last year because he rejected Boston's qualifying offer and, as a free agent, never found the multiyear deal he thought he'd get. He finally re-signed with the Red Sox in June.

"Having a spring training this year and getting at-bats that I didn't have will pay off in the long run," Drew said.

The Yankees know there is risk. They're banking on his track record and Drew recouping the form that allowed him to hit .253 with a .333 OBP, 13 homers and 67 RBIs in 124 games in 2013.

While acknowledging Drew as a "question mark," Cashman said Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela -- whom opposing team scouts overwhelmingly consider the better overall prospect -- simply aren't major league-ready.

"Those guys have shown they still have work to do on the defensive side," Cashman told reporters in Tampa on Sunday. "Right now, I'm pretty comfortable that the Drew signing was the smart play for us on the front end."

Many veteran players see spring camp as seven to 10 days too long, but that's not the case for Drew. Not this year.

"I've enjoyed it," he said with a smile. "I needed it."

Tino seeks role with Yanks. At the behest of new vice president of player development Gary Denbo, Tino Martinez, honored with a plaque in Monument Park last summer, has been working with Yankees minor-leaguers and will do so until the end of camp.

The former first baseman also is in discussions with the team for a position that would extend into the regular season and could include visiting and working with all of the club's minor-league teams.

"It's been great. I've enjoyed it," Martinez said Monday at the team's minor-league complex. "They're [minor-leaguers] so willing to learn. They want to move up. Any knowledge you can give them, they'll take. They all want to get to the next level. It's nice to watch them develop and progress."

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