- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2016

The blue Atlanta Braves scorecard was placed neatly on the red folding chair in front of Stephen Drew’s locker. Scribbled on it, in blue ink a shade darker than the paper, was a note to remind the Washington Nationals’ utility infielder what he accomplished moments earlier.

Stephen Drew first home run as a National.
Off Matt Wisler.
Nationals win 3-0.

Drew’s solo knock occurred in the bottom of the fourth inning, a 338-foot blast into the right-field seats. Until that point, the Nationals and Braves were locked in a scoreless tie and the hits were hard to come by. Only catcher Wilson Ramos managed managed to get on base with a single — the Nationals’ only base runner in the first three innings.

Drew, who made just the second start of his career at third base on Wednesday, turned on a 2-2 fastball that Wiser left over the plate.

“Not trying to do too much,” Drew said after the 3-0 win. “He had a really good sinker working early on. I was just fortunate to get a ball over right there and put a good swing on it. It was good to get on the board.”

Bryce Harper struck out in the next at-bat and Daniel Murphy walked. Jayson Werth clubbed a two-run home run, giving the Nationals a three-run lead that felt like 10. Atlanta had just four hits as Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings.

For Drew, it was his first start of the season. He previously had just four at-bats as a pinch hitter and defensive substitute and got his first hit of the year in Tuesday’s 2-1 win against the Braves. That hit happened in the bottom of the eighth inning and he scored on Harper’s two-run double.

“I know my role here,” Drew said. “I’m just trying to prep myself the best I can to put myself in a way to be successful for this team, whether it’s in the field or hitting. That’s my job. Just trying to get as much information as I can and go out and do it. I’ve played the game before so it’s nothing new here. But the one at-bat here and there, I’m always going to be ready, but the preparation going into it is what leads up to it.

When the Nationals signed the 11-year veteran to a one-year, $3 million contract in the offseason, it was clear he was brought in to add depth to the infield. Washington signed second baseman Daniel Murphy to a three-year deal and Danny Espinosa was in line to play shortstop after the departure of Ian Desmond. At third, Anthony Rendon was entrenched as the starter. The question was where would he help?

Drew, a lifelong shortstop, began playing second base when he was traded to the New York Yankees in 2014. Last year, he played 123 games there with 94 starts. He also appeared briefly at third base four times, with just one start. In spring training, Baker took the chance to get a look at Drew all over the diamond. He played seven games at second base, five at third base, five at shortstop and two at first base. He said he felt good at third on Wednesday, though it was a fairly quiet night.

“It’s fun,” Drew said. “In spring training, that’s what I can go off of and thought I did well. I think playing at short in the big leagues really helps anybody go into that utility role. At short, you have to be in position, there’s a lot you don’t think about, but I think about, that makes it tough. Playing short, then going to second and third, playing short makes it easier to play third.”

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