With apologies to Armand Schaubroeck for the above headline, Red Sox RF J.D. Drew made an early exit during yesterday’s 4-2, series-salvaging win at Pittsburgh, after fouling a ball off his left eye during BP.  While it would be the height of exaggeration to say Drew never found a physical ailment that wouldn’t keep him out of a lineup, it is entirely accurate on the part of the Boston Herald’s John Tomase to claim many Red Sox fans have been “eager to crate him up aboard the first steamer to Siberia” since his arrival from Los Angeles in 2007. However, citing a number of hard-hit balls (many of ’em caught by outfielders) over the past few week, Tomase insists that Drew, “deserves one more chance”.

Drew describes most of his struggles this season as mental. He was swinging the bat well out of Fort Myers and as late as April 27 found himself hitting .285 with an .800 OPS.

Then Drew fell off a cliff. He hit just .179 over his next 26 games with production that barely showed up under a scanning electron microscope — two homers, two doubles, five RBI.

Drew is never going to be popular with Red Sox fans, who shriek like banshees at the mention of his name. They’ve believed him overpaid since the day he signed for five years and $70 million.

But for all the heat general manager Theo Epstein has rightfully taken over free agent signings like John Lackey, Matt Clement and Julio Lugo, Drew doesn’t belong in their class. He’s been a tough out, an exceptional right fielder and a clutch postseason performer. He’s no superstar, but he’s a valuable piece of a winning team.

He can still be that piece. Drew just needs a little more time. The Red Sox should give it to him.