A natural righty, Drew bats from left side

A natural righty, Drew bats from left side

PHOENIX -- Not long after he joined the D-backs last summer, Jeff Cirillo found himself in the batting cage with shortstop Stephen Drew.

Cirillo watched Drew take some swings from the right side and then the left. The next time the D-backs faced a left-hander, Cirillo was surprised to see Drew swinging from the left side.

"I thought you were a switch-hitter," he said to Drew.

Those who watch Drew are amazed at how well he swings the bat from the right side, but if they knew how he grew up, they'd be even more surprised with how well he hits from the left side.

Drew, you see, was born right-handed.

So if you watch him hold silverware, sign autographs or do almost anything else, you'll notice he does it right-handed. Everything, that is, except hitting Major League pitching. That he does left-handed.

"I hit right-handed until I was 9 or 10," he said.

With older brother and current big leaguer J.D. a left-handed hitter, Drew decided to give switch-hitting a try. So to practice his left-handed hitting, he would throw a tennis ball up on his garage roof and let it hit the ground once before swinging from the left side.

"It bounced up to the perfect height," he said. "J.D. helped me out a little bit, too."

Drew also worked on his swing with a batting tee and started switch-hitting before he abandoned it in the 10th grade.

"It was kind of tough, because there were not a lot of left-handed pitchers that we faced," Drew said. "And my dad was right-handed, so I didn't really have any lefties to practice against, either. So I decided halfway through 10th grade to just go left and see how it went against lefties. It became just as easy, so I stuck with it."

And with good reason. Drew's hitting prowess got him a scholarship to Florida State University and made him a first-round selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

Hitting from the left side of the plate forced Drew to use the whole field, and he says it made him a better hitter.

"The biggest thing for me hitting right-handed was that I seemed to pull a lot of balls," he said. "Whereas left-handed, it was kind of natural to go the other way. So I stuck with left-handed and it's gotten me here."

As a rookie in 2006, Drew hit .316 before slumping to .238 last season. This year, he's off to a better start, with a .294 mark through the first 15 games.

There are times that Drew will swing right-handed, but he saves it for the batting cage where only teammates or hitting coach Rick Schu can see.

"We try to keep it loose in the cages at times, so he'll take some swings from the right side," Schu said. "He's got a real nice stroke from there. He's just a real gifted athlete."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.