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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