SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Neither the D-backs nor Stephen Drew will say it yet, but with each passing day, it becomes more clear that the shortstop will not be in the lineup come Opening Day.
Drew, who is recovering from last July's nasty ankle injury, has yet to get into a Spring Training game. In fact, he has yet to really run at full speed.
"I'd still say we're a ways off before he plays in a game, so you guys can probably figure it out," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said when asked if Drew would be ready for Opening Day. "I don't ever want to say never, but we're not even at the point yet of putting him into games. I think the deeper you get into the spring it becomes less likely. He hasn't played in eight, nine months so he's going to need to see quite a bit of live pitching just to get comfortable and get his timing back. Game speed is a lot different than just going out and taking ground balls and swinging in the cage."
Drew had a similar answer when asked the question.
"It's hard to say," he said. "I wish I had an answer. For me, you've got to go out and run bases, you've got to feel really comfortable doing that type of thing because the game speed is fast. People don't realize that. I haven't played in any Spring Training games so right now I don't know. It's one of those things where it would have to happen really fast progression-wise, like running and stuff like that, where I haven't even done it yet."
Drew fractured the ankle and damaged three ligaments sliding into home July 20 and had surgery the following day.
While he has worked diligently since then to rehab the joint, ligaments take longer to heal than bone so it's been a slow process.
"Every day has gotten a little better," Drew said. "There are some days that get sorer than others, but at the same time I've done a lot more than I have in the past, which is good."
Over the last couple of weeks Drew has expanded his work schedule. Once on a two-days-on, one-day-off program, he has bumped it to three days on and one day off.
That schedule is fine for now, but Drew does not want to be limited in any way.
"For me when I come back I want to play," he said. "I don't want to come back and play two and one day off -- I want to go out there and play like I always have."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson enjoys teasing Drew. For instance he told him Tuesday that he would be in the lineup come this Thursday.
"All the time he teases me," Drew said. "It's fun games, but we talk and he knows where I'm at. Mentally I'm ready, physically I'm not yet. That's the part that kinda can be frustrating at times, but at the same time once I'm back I'll be back. I won't have any question with that."
The uncertainty of Drew's return was one of the driving forces behind the D-backs' decision to re-sign shortstops Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald.
The pair filled in for Drew in the second half of last season and did a nice job.
"Without them, we wouldn't have won the division, so that leads me to believe we should still be very strong up the middle if for some reason Stephen's not ready," Towers said. "I'd be lying if I didn't say that when Stephen comes back we're probably a better ballclub."
When that will be is anyone's guess, but Opening Day seems more and more unlikely with each passing day.
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.