PHOENIX -- The frustration from a disappointing season on the field spilled over into the D-backs' executive offices on Tuesday, as managing general partner Ken Kendrick made some pointed comments about injured shortstop Stephen Drew.Drew has been on the disabled list since suffering a spiral fracture of his right ankle on July 20 while sliding into home plate. The injury required surgery, and in addition to the fracture, he injured three ligaments. Drew has played in extended spring games and is set to begin an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Reno on Thursday. Apparently, Kendrick believes that Drew's progress has been slower than it should be, and he cited Drew's pending free agency as the reason. "I'm going to be real direct about Stephen," Kendrick said on XTRA Sports 910 AM. "I think Stephen should have been out there playing before now, frankly. I, for one, am disappointed. I'm going to be real candid and say Stephen and his representatives are more focused on where Stephen is going to be a year from now than going out and supporting the team that's paying his salary." Kendrick was asked by host Brad Cesmat what recourse the team had with regards to the situation. "All you can do is hope that the player is treating the situation with integrity," Kendrick said. "Frankly, we have our concerns." Kendrick said he had not addressed the situation with Drew, but others in the organization have. And what did Drew say? "I think he [long pause] was not very direct," Kendrick told Cesmat. "He needs more time to get ready. I'm speaking from his perspective." Drew's agent, Scott Boras, defended his client.
"I think achieving the success that Mr. Kendrick has in his life that he would respect the commitment and focus and the effort of Stephen Drew, who has demonstrated that on the field when he went all out to score for his team from second base and badly injured his ankle at home," Boras told The Arizona Republic. "Consistent with that effort, it's pretty clear that a person of that ilk like Stephen Drew would do everything he can by going all out to return."
The comments put Kirk Gibson in a difficult spot, and the manager was careful in how he responded when asked about Kendrick's comments before the D-backs faced the Rockies at Chase Field."I wouldn't comment on something like that," Gibson said. "Ken is a very passionate owner, we know that. He cares a lot about the city, about the team, about the organization and baseball in general, and I'm not really privy to those comments and I don't think it's appropriate for me to sit and comment on that situation. "Stephen is coming in here and he's doing what I ask him to do, and I've told you all along when he's comfortable and he's ready to play ... we can't force him to play." The D-backs were picked by many to repeat as National League West champions, but have struggled to find their way this year and were nine games out of first place heading into play on Tuesday. Gibson has worked to try to keep his players from giving into the frustration that has been steadily building. "I think we all get frustrated with losing," Gibson said. "We all have high expectations. But you have to regroup, try to do what you think is right to prepare. We're all pushing forward to try and get on a roll. Me, personally, with the players we just try to do what we think is right in preparation and hopefully it will start showing up on the field and we play better. We haven't played well, and it could be frustrating and it should be frustrating, yet you have to keep your composure and still play the game properly." One of the key components to the lineup, right fielder Justin Upton, has also struggled. After being in the conversation for NL Most Valuable Player in 2011, Upton came into play Tuesday with a .243 average, five homers and 20 RBIs. Gibson had him out of the lineup Saturday in San Diego and did so again Tuesday. "Trying to get him going, trying a lot of things," Gibson said. "We need him to relax and we need him to get on a roll. I think he's pressing too hard. He's struggled, so he's not in the lineup today." Kendrick weighed in on Upton's struggles in his radio interview as well. "I think Justin is an enigma at this point," Kendrick said. "I know he had an injury early on and maybe a little bit of a nagging injury. But he's played. He's certainly not the Justin Upton that he has been in the past and that we would expect of him. He's 24 years old, and it's time for him to be a consistent performer, and right now, this year, he's not been that." No one in the organization is questioning Upton's work ethic, as Gibson made clear. Gibson said he asked Upton not to take any swings on Tuesday after the slugger took a lot of extra hitting when he was out of the lineup on Saturday. "I think he's overthinking," Gibson said. "I think he's over-trying and things aren't coming naturally to him. He's tried a lot, and he's a little bit lost in who he really is. And he's very frustrated, as you can see. "It's not from a lack of effort. It's something that I think he feels frustrated with the situation, and we just need to get the situation calmed down. We need to get him where he can be. It's important to the team and our success. You hate to put so much importance on a guy, but he's obviously very important to us and our success."
When asked following Tuesday's 10-0 win about Kendrick's comments, Upton said he had not heard them. A reporter then summarized them."That's his opinion," Upton said. "To be honest with you, I don't have a comment on it. He's going to say what he needs to say. He's the one that makes the decisions around here, and whatever decision he decides to make, or whatever he thinks about me, it's ultimately his decision." Upton was asked if he expected to be in Wednesday's starting lineup. "It's hard to expect anything around here," he said. "I really don't know. I'm going to come in tomorrow and wait until the lineup pops up on the screen like everyone else." If Gibson wanted to give Upton a day or so to clear his head, it didn't seem to have the desired effect. "I thought today was pretty unproductive," Upton said. "I sat around and really didn't do much, and I was still [ticked] off about the way I'm playing." And there was no hesitation when he was asked if he was upset that he was not playing. "Absolutely. I want to be on the field every single day," he said. "But at the same time, none of you all are blind. Parra deserves to play, so whatever they need to do, they do. I'm not playing well, Parra's playing well, he deserves to play. I'm not holding my weight right now."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.