Red Sox

It's time to admit the obvious - Dustin Pedroia looks like he's finished

It's time to admit the obvious - Dustin Pedroia looks like he's finished

NEW YORK -- The reeling Red Sox lost in horrible fashion again on Wednesday, Ryan Brasier surrendering a go-ahead grand slam to Brett Gardner in a 5-3 loss that leaves them a staggering 8.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East.

But let us take a break from our nightly bash-fest to focus on the inevitable, melancholy turn the game took in the second inning and what it means in the big picture for one of the most storied figures of our post-2004 renaissance.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia flied out to right to drop his average to .100 and then did not take the field. The Red Sox removed him because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee, puncturing the myth perhaps once and for all that he will be a meaningful contributor this season. If ever.

After appearing in just three games last season, Pedroia lasted six this time around, and though no one's closing the door on his return, it's time to face reality.

The surgery didn't work. Pedroia's career might effectively be over.

Given the fearlessness with which he played in his heyday and the serious injuries he overcame -- including dings and dents to his hands and wrists, the lifeblood of any hitter -- it's amazing he lasted as long as he did.

From Rookie of the Year to MVP to World Series champion, all within two years, Pedroia, who turns 36 in August, is destined to occupy a space near Nomar Garciaparra in franchise lore as the superstar whose flame burned at an intensity his body simply could not endure.

A three-time All-Star, an MVP and a Gold Glover by age 26, Pedroia has made just one All-Star team in the eight years since, a streak that will soon reach nine. He gutted through a thumb injury to lead the American League in plate appearances in the world championship 2013 campaign, and three years later he delivered his last great season, hitting .318 and scoring 105 runs before undergoing offseason knee surgery.

The Red Sox seemed willfully blind to his limitations this winter in ways that even Pedroia himself was not, unrealistically banking on him to play 125 or 130 games when it was clear to anyone with two eyes that Pedroia's cartilage restoration procedure had left him diminished.

It's certainly not Pedroia's fault that the front office chose not to sign a backup second baseman, counting instead on the duo of Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez. But with Holt (scratched cornea) on the injured list and the perpetually creaky Nunez hitting just .159 while battling a sore back, second base suddenly resembles that grainy orange image of a black hole NASA just released.

The Red Sox should've been able to see this coming, given the experimental nature of Pedroia's surgery, the fact that it limited him to three games last year, and the similar struggle to stay healthy befalling knuckleballer Steven Wright, who also underwent the procedure.

But they didn't, and so here we were, watching Pedroia shuttle between DH and the field, unable to play his position with any regularity. His exit from a game under circumstances exactly like Wednesday's was coming sooner rather than later, and everyone knew it, including deep down I'm sure, Pedroia.

And so, he will undoubtedly do everything in his power to return yet again, it's not too soon to start viewing him like Pedro Martinez or David Ortiz, Red Sox greats whose careers reside in the past tense.

While some will argue Pedroia never should've been offered an eight-year contract through 2021, given his size and injury history, it's not like he didn't earn every penny of his relatively modest (these things are relative) $110 million extension.

He took some heat for signing that deal in the middle of the 2013 season, because it was considered below market for an All-Star in his prime. But Pedroia had a ready-made retort anytime anyone broached the subject.

"Are you kidding me?" he once told me. "I'm rich as f---."

Those of us who got to watch the Laser Show in his prime every day from 2007-2013 considered it a privilege. Watching him leave the game on Wednesday with a grimace is no way for his career to end, but if we're being honest with ourselves, it's hard to envision a Red Sox future that includes him.

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Red Sox designate Eduardo Nuñez for assignment

Red Sox designate Eduardo Nuñez for assignment

After Sunday night's extra innings loss to the National League-leading Dodgers, the Red Sox are making moves. 

Most notably, the Red Sox announced that they are designating Eduardo Nuñez for assignment. This means Boston is removing Nuñez from the 40-man roster, and he can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers within seven days. 

Nuñez, a hero of 2018's World Series run, has struggled this season to say the least. The 32-year-old is hitting .228 with a .243 on-base percentage, both career-lows. In the Red Sox second-baseman depth chart, he's behind Michael Chavis, Brock Holt and Marco Hernandez. 

Nuñez is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and he likely wouldn't bring back much in a trade as a veteran rental.  

The Red Sox also sent Hector Velázquez, who pitched in all three of Boston's post-All-Star Break games, to Triple-A Pawtucket. Velázquez (5.67 ERA) allowed three earned runs in extra innings against the Dodgers on Sunday night. 

To replace Velázquez and Nuñez, the Sox called up Ryan Weber and Sam Travis to help the bullpen and first basemen depth, respectively. 

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Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts and Mike Trout are only MLB players with these stats

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USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts and Mike Trout are only MLB players with these stats

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is having the best season of his career, and his performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend was fantastic.

The 26-year-old shortstop batted 6-for-12 with six RBI and a home run in each of the three games at Fenway Park.

Bogaerts is hitting .301 with 20 homers and 71 RBI through 89 games this season, and he should be in the American League MVP discussion. He's even entered Mike Trout territory in some statistical categories, and that's when you really know you're enjoying a special season. 

Take a look at these stats:

Trout is considered by many people as baseball's best player, and the Los Angeles Angels outfielder has finished first or second in AL MVP voting in six of his seven full MLB seasons (including two wins). Bogaerts has been nearly as valuable to the Red Sox as Trout has been to the Angels this year.

One of the most impressive aspects of Bogaerts' season has been his consistency. He's collected a hit in 22 of his last 26 games, including an active streak of six games. He's also been more disciplined at the plate, tallying 51 walks, just seven behind his career high. Bogaerts also is on pace to set career highs in home runs, batting average, runs, hits, on-base percentage and more.

The Red Sox have disappointed for much of the season and find themselves in a difficult race to secure one of the two AL wild-card playoff spots. One encouraging result of this season, at least so far, has been the play of Bogaerts. Hopefully for the Sox, it's a sign of things to come for the star shortstop with his contract extension kicking in next year.

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