J.D. Drew has always had ample time to think. There's all that standing around in the outfield. There's all that laying around in the trainer's room.
Maybe it's an unanticipated upside to the bewildering litany of injuries that have dotted his halting eight-year career.
For the longest time, Drew filled the yawning gaps by contemplating his swing, a marvel of perfect mechanics and precise timing that once invited comparisons to Mickey Mantle. He breaks it down, inspects every element -- concrete and conceptual -- and reassembles it, in his mind, or in front of a mirror, or in the grimy confines of a batting cage.
Now, though, a piercing cry has joined the crack of the bat as his siren call. He gets out of bed, rocks little J.D. back to sleep, and has ample time to think, yet again.
About his accomplishments. About his failures. About how little J.D. will view his father's career someday.
"Having a child changes how you see a lot of things," Drew said. "It can give you maturity and make you reflect."
Drew's wife, Sheigh, gave birth to their son on the eve of spring training. Although their primary residence is in Hahira, Ga., the family spent six weeks in Vero Beach, Fla., and will spend the season at their home in Pasadena.
Never far from that piercing cry, Drew has renewed motivation to hear the crack of his bat. He wants to leave a legacy, something more than the $55-million, five-year contract he signed with the Dodgers before the 2005 season, something more than unrealized potential.
It starts with staying healthy. He has recovered from the wrist injury that ended his first Dodger season after 72 games, and has recovered from minor off-season surgeries on his other wrist and shoulder.
The worst injury of his career -- a diseased knee tendon that required surgery after the 2002 season -- is well behind him. Yet, he has been on the disabled list seven times.
Can he make it through this season without that number climbing? Drew has played 135 to 145 games every other season since 2000, his first full year in the big leagues. This being an even-numbered year, well, the Dodgers can only hope the pattern holds.
The spring was encouraging. Manager Grady Little makes a point of saying that he treats every player differently, basically giving himself permission to grant Drew leeway.
It was Little's idea to have Drew take six or more at-bats in minor league games at Dodgertown rather than accompany the team on the road several times this spring. And it seemed that nearly every time Drew reached base after the fourth inning, a pinch-runner was dispatched from the dugout.
"Each player is an individual and each player requires a different regimen to get the most out of them," Little said. "In J.D.'s case, we've got to be aware of his history and maximize what he does well."
That would be primarily to provide a big bat in the No. 3 spot. Little knows how important Drew is to a Dodger lineup that could be short on power. Only cleanup hitter Jeff Kent and Drew are expected to hit more than 25 home runs -- and Drew has done it twice, hitting 27 with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001 and 31 with the Atlanta Braves in 2004.
Last season Drew hit 15 homers in 252 at-bats and batted .286 despite an 0-for-25 start. He has turned that slump around in his head many times since, concluding paralysis by analysis was the cause, spending too much time in the batting cage and taking too many swings off a tee.
"I didn't overdo the number of swings this year," he said. "As you get older, you tend to file away what works and what doesn't.
"I've learned how to get into a routine that works. That comes from maturity and leads to motivation."
Drew turned 30 during the off-season, a watershed moment that ranks alongside fatherhood in a man's maturation. The limitless promise he carried when drafted second overall by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997, then fifth overall by the Cardinals a year later after he failed to sign, has been nicked and bruised, banged up and broken, contorted by his string of injuries.
And as with all players, his promise has transformed over the years into something measurable, hard numbers in a media guide or on the back of a baseball card.
A card his son someday will view.
"It seems like yesterday that I broke into the league," Drew said. "Staying healthy is my primary goal right now. If that happens, the other stuff, the numbers, should fall into place."
Putting together a three- or four-year run of injury-free seasons would change the perception of Drew as someone who fell short of his potential. It also would put to rest the suggestion that he doesn't want it bad enough.
That reputation started with the Cardinals. Manager Tony La Russa concluded that he simply couldn't motivate Drew, and that maybe another manager could. Drew's best season came under Bobby Cox in Atlanta, but the Braves weren't interested in re-signing him, at least not for the money former Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta was willing to pay.