Red Sox

Dave Dombrowski cautiously optimistic on Dustin Pedroia, hopeful he’ll be ‘the main guy’ at second base

Dave Dombrowski cautiously optimistic on Dustin Pedroia, hopeful he’ll be ‘the main guy’ at second base

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With so much focus on the Red Sox bullpen situation as spring training gets underway, it’s easy to forget about the question mark that lies at second base.

Besides last year, second base hasn’t been a position where the Red Sox are used to having question marks. Dustin Pedroia’s presence usually would be the last thing to worry about heading into a new season. But with the 13-year veteran playing in only three games in 2018 due to a nagging knee injury, his health will be closely monitored in the days leading up to Opening Day and for many days after.

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski provided an update on Pedroia, who he says is expected to report to camp within the next day or two.

“[Pedroia] says he feels good,” Dombrowski said Wednesday at JetBlue Park. “My answer really hasn’t changed throughout the wintertime. He feels good, our medical reports on him are good. Until he gets here day in and day out will we get the chance to see — I don’t think that it’s one day, it’s probably a matter of the build-up, of the pounding on a daily basis and how he handles it.”

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As for Pedroia’s workload for the regular season, Dombrowski seems cautiously optimistic. The plan is for Pedroia to be the primary second baseman, with a number of other players stepping in to take the load off his shoulders (and his knee).

“We’re still not looking at a 150-game player,” Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’s a 125-game player at this point. We do feel we have some people who are solid and can fill in. To fill in if [Pedroia] plays 120, guys like [Brock] Holt, a guy like [Eduardo] Nuñez coming over there. Even some depth with Tzu-Wei Lin in our organization we like a great deal. They are also capable of playing more games, that combination. But we’re hopeful that Pedey will be the guy. The main guy.”

Such optimism could indicate Pedroia’s road to recovery is going as smoothly as the team could have hoped for. Of course, when dealing with a player like Pedroia who’s undoubtedly anxious to return to action, there comes a risk of rushing into things which could be counterproductive from a recovery standpoint.

Dombrowski was asked about saving Pedroia from himself. In other words, making sure he doesn’t try to go full speed ahead when he really should be easing back into the grind.

“Well, we discuss it all the time so sure, we have to watch him,” Dombrowski said. “I think, I can’t tell you because I haven’t been around him day in and day out in the winter time, but Pedey’s always driven, he always wants to get out there, but we have already had conversations that we can’t let him push beyond what he’s supposed to do from a medical perspective day in and day out, so we’ll have a program for him. It’ll be very important that he follows it. We’ll talk to him on a daily basis from a medical perspective.”

“He’s had a lot of surgeries, he’s worked really hard,” Dombrowski continued. “I do think that the reality — I think the good communication with people on a consistent basis, Alex [Cora] with him is really good. Alex and he have a great relationship together. They’ve been together for years. So I do think it’s better, but I can’t tell you 100 percent. We just have to be careful in that regard.”

When it comes to Pedroia staying patient as he aims to retain his role as the starting Red Sox second baseman, Chris Sale believes that’s an area Pedroia could use some improvement.

“Ah, man, I think he’s still working on patience,” Sale joked on Wednesday. “He’s one of those guys you can never rule out. I dare you to rule him out, actually. Because he’s out to prove a point this year, and that’s a scary thought.”

Sale is right. Ruling out a former MVP — especially one with Pedroia’s determination — would be foolish. But if everything is to go according to plan with Pedroia and the second base position in 2019, patience will be a virtue.

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Bryce Harper rooting for Mookie Betts 'to make more money than I do' in free agency

Bryce Harper rooting for Mookie Betts 'to make more money than I do' in free agency

BOSTON -- Bryce Harper was one of the earliest passengers on the Mookie Betts bandwagon, even as its namesake made him a victim of highway robbery.

The 2015 Fenway home opener featured the Nationals and their superstar 22-year-old, but Betts stole the show. He not only went 2-for-4 with a homer and two steals, he also made a leaping catch in right-center to rob Harper of a homer and then gushed about what an honor it was to share a field with him.

The two future MVPs were born only nine days apart in October of 1992, but by 2015 Harper had already established himself as a superstar, while Betts was still finding his way. "He'd be in the lineup every day if he was mine," Harper said at the time.

Fast forward just four short years, and there's no missing either of them. Harper is in the first year of a record 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia, while Betts is a year away from hitting the market himself and discovering what riches it holds.

With the Phillies in town for a two-game series, that made Harper the perfect man to discuss Betts' future, because he has lived it.

"Just seeing him play through the minors and then when he got up here, he was such an electric player," Harper told NBC Sports Boston. "He's one of those guys who can change the game in an instant on both sides of the ball. He's a really good person as well off the field. Just a guy you'd want on your franchise for a long time."

The Red Sox agree, but they won't be the only team vying for his services if Betts reaches free agency. Harper faced a similar predicament with the Nationals last year, at one point reportedly declining a $300 million extension.

Whatever connection Harper felt with Washington, the team that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, it didn't supersede his collectively bargained right to test the market.

"For myself and other players, you earn that opportunity to go there," Harper said. "You're locked in for a long period of time with one team once you get drafted, and then you have an opportunity to go and listen to other teams and see what they have to offer. It's a fun time, it's a good time to feel wanted, and Mookie is going to be wanted by a lot of teams and I think Boston is going to be one of them."

Harper rattled off a list of former teammates and executives in Washington he expects will remain lifelong friends. He has nothing but good things to say about his seven seasons there. But he also recognized that perhaps his time had run its course in ways that should make sense to Red Sox fans wondering how the team will find the money to pay Betts, MVP candidate Rafael Devers, and young outfielder Andrew Benintendi, among others.

"It was time for both sides," Harper said. "[The Nationals] have Juan Soto and Victor Robles, [Anthony] Rendon, a lot of players coming up. It was time to go somewhere else and I'm just happy I'm here and very happy I'm in Philly."

Harper's free agency experience lasted months, which is perhaps baseball's new normal. He didn't sign with the Phillies until the end of February, but he didn't sweat it, and he doesn't think Betts should either.

"I didn't mind it," he said. "Only having a couple of weeks in spring training was nice, some extra time with family and friends. But it's part of the process. It's part of what teams and players are doing now. It's going to be a long process for him, but I think he'll be able to handle that. He has a great head on his shoulders and a great family."

While Harper's contract remains the biggest ever signed by a free agent, it was in short order eclipsed as baseball's richest by Mike Trout's 12-year, $430 million extension with the Angels. Harper would love to see Betts achieve even greater financial heights.

"Just like Trout did," Harper said. "Mookie's an incredible player. If he has an opportunity to make more money than I do, then I hope he does."

Whatever Betts ultimately lands on the market, Harper still has one bone to pick. He ended up winning the MVP in 2015 after hitting .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBI. All of those numbers would've been higher, except Betts had other ideas.

"It should've been 43," Harper said with a wry smile. "So, appreciate it, Mookie."

 

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Highlights of Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Phillies

Highlights of Red Sox' 3-2 loss to the Phillies

FINAL SCORE: Phillies 3, Red Sox 2

IN BRIEF: The Philadelphia Phillies made three-first inning runs stand up as Aaron Nola stymied the Red Sox on four hits in seven innings in Boston's 3-2 loss at Fenway Park that halted a five-game winning streak and further damaged the Sox' faint playoff hopes. BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 67-60

HIGHLIGHTS

1st inning:
Hoskins walks, moves to third on Harper's double to left, Segura doubles to left, scoring Hoskins and Harper (2-0, PHI).

Kingery singles to left, scoring Segura (3-0, PHI). 

3rd inning:
Moreland singles to left, Bradley Jr. hits a two-run homer to right on a 0-and-0 pitch from Nola. (3-2, PHI).

UP NEXT:

Vs. Phillies, Tuesday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
Vs. Phillies, Wednesday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
Vs. Royals (completion of suspended game), Thursday, 1:05 p.m., NESN
@Padres, Friday, 10:10 p.m., NESN
@Padres, Saturday, 8:40 p.m., NESN
@Padres, Sunday, 4:10 p.m., NESN

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