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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MLB Rumors: RHP Sergio Romo drawing interest from Red Sox

MLB Rumors: RHP Sergio Romo drawing interest from Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox reportedly have their eye on a veteran reliever in free agency.

Right-hander Sergio Romo is drawing significant interest from multiple teams including Boston, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. A deal is expected to get done during the Winter Meetings this week.

Tomase: Are Sox interested in bringing back Porcello?

Romo played for the Rays in 2017 and 2018 when new Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom was in the Tampa Bay front office. The 36-year-old was used as an "opener" in five games during that '18 campaign.

Last season with the Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins, Romo tallied 20 saves and posted a 3.43 ERA in appearances.

For his 12-year career, Romo boasts a 2.92 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He was a World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants in 2012 and an All-Star in 2013.

Tomase: Sox offseason plans could come into focus this week>>>

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MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

SAN DIEGO — Daniel Nava is no stranger to long odds.

The Red Sox famously bought the former college equipment manager, sight-unseen, for a dollar out of independent ball in 2008. The late bloomer then bashed his way to the big leagues two years later at age 27, launching a grand slam in the first pitch of his first at-bat before playing a key supporting role in the 2013 title.

Now closing in on his 37th birthday, Nava hasn't appeared in the majors since 2017 with the Phillies. He signed with the Pirates in 2018, but a back injury necessitated surgery, which led to an infection, and he ended up spending 18 months on the sidelines.

He made a comeback with the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association last year, hitting .288 in 71 games. That was enough to convince him he's not done, and so this week he's wandering the halls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt at baseball's winter meetings like any other job seeker, albeit one with seven years of service time and a World Series ring.

"It's a funny turn of events to bring it almost full circle to where you're doing the same thing you did at the start," Nava told NBC Sports Boston. "I remember when I sat in (Mike) Hazen's office (in 2008) and he more or less said, 'Why should we keep you?' I had to sell myself on the spot. Fortunately, I don't think it mattered what I said, because they were going to give me a shot. That's what I'm hoping for right now, is just a shot again. It's not like I haven't been here before."

Nava carved out a solid career with the Red Sox, especially given where he started. The 5-10, 195-pound switch hitter spent parts of five seasons in Boston, delivering some memorable hits along the way. In addition to the grand slam off of Philly's Joe Blanton in his debut, he also blasted the game-winning homer vs. the Royals in the emotionally charged return to Fenway after the Marathon bombings in 2013.

"No one saw that team coming," Nava said. "We knew how good we were in that clubhouse, but I don't think anyone outside that clubhouse, especially after that previous season, saw it. We knew we had something special."

Nava said he's fully recovered from the discectomy that sidelined him for all of 2018 and half of 2019. He might have retired to his offseason home in Nashville, but those 71 games of independent ball convinced him otherwise.

"I wanted to see if A, I could still do it, and then B, would a team be interested in me?" Nava said. "A was possible, and now B is what I'm here to trying to see — if I can get one more final look, one more shot."

He's representing himself on this mission alongside fellow independent leaguer Shawn O'Malley, a Kansas City resident and 31-year-old former utilityman with the Angels and Mariners who hustled to San Diego directly from a wedding two hours outside Atlanta to pitch a comeback of his own.

"I do have an agent," Nava said. "But I need to do this in person, so teams can see that physically I'm not dead."

Nava said he has reached out via text to contacts in multiple organizations, including the Red Sox. As if on cue, a member of the team's video staff stopped Nava in the lobby to wish him well.

"More or less text communication, nothing face to face," he said. "Obviously a return back to where everything started would be meaningful, but I understand how this business works."

And to that end, he's willing to start all over in the minors, if that's what it takes, and bring this journey full circle.

"I want a shot," he said. "And I'll take whatever — and I mean whatever — I can get. I'm not going to be a veteran who says, 'How dare I go to the minor leagues?' Having been in a position like this so many years ago, it brings me back to that point of just having a hunger and a desire to want to play, and that's where I'm at right now."