Drew, who had been hobbled by a bad back in the weeks leading up to the postseason, has played just four games since Aug. 17. And none of those games have been played on back-to-back days.
If the Red Sox lose Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday night, Game 4 would be on Monday, marking the first time in the series games have been played on consecutive days.
But Drew's balky back wasn't the lone determining factor. With lefty Joe Saunders pitching Game 3 for the Angels, Red Sox manager Terry Francona wanted to get Coco Crisp into the lineup.
Crisp, who started in center with Jacoby Ellsbury moving to right, is a .294 lifetime hitter (5-for-17) against Saunders. Though Drew fared well against lefties this year in a limited sample size (.284, three homers, 17 RBIs in 74 at-bats), he hasn't faced any in a while.
"We talked to J.D. yesterday," said Francona. "He's doing pretty good. We talked about having back-to-back games. The other thing is, Coco has done pretty well against this guy. So I think it makes some sense. Now we have J.D. sitting over here with a bat in his hands. I just think this is the way our team has been the whole year. I don't know that we've had nine guys play every game. I know normally you get to this time of year and you send eight or nine guys out there and just stay with it. I don't know that we're built like that right now.
"I think we do have to recognize the fact he's played two games in a row, even though there was a day off in between, for the first time in 50 days."
Though Drew's back is improving, the hope is to prevent any further setbacks.
"He came in, did the treadmill yesterday," said Francona. "I think the bigger thing for him right now is just getting his legs under him. I think the more and more he goes, the better. He hasn't faced a left-hander [lately]. We talked for 10 minutes. If there had been a big fight, I might have played him. Well, that's maybe incorrect."
Just as Drew exited, third baseman Mike Lowell (partial labrum tear in right hip) was back in the mix after being rested for Game 2.
"He's doing fine," Francona said. "I think he had a real good day yesterday. [He] looked like he was moving around a little bit better than he was the last couple of days."
In Drew's absence, Jason Bay moved to the fifth spot in the batting order. Crisp batted ninth.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.