Pedroia may return for Red Sox's home opener
OAKLAND -- For the first time in nearly a year, Dustin Pedroia played nine innings of baseball on Tuesday, and it went well.
The setting was a game at extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., the final step before Pedroia heads out on an official Minor League rehab assignment that starts at Class A Greenville on Thursday.
“He did well,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “I actually talked to him today. He had four at-bats, three quality at-bats, made some diving plays at second. He said he felt fine.”
Pedroia will look to pass another milestone later at Greenville when he plays in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday.
“[He'll have] Saturday off. Sunday he’ll play nine and we’ll go from there,” said Cora.
After his four-day stint in Greenville, Pedroia could be cleared to play in the home opener at Fenway Park on April 9 against the Blue Jays. That will be an even bigger day than normal in Boston, as the Red Sox will get their World Series rings in a pregame ceremony.
It will be the third in Pedroia’s collection, though he was used sparingly last year, playing in just three games before his troublesome left knee reached the point of no return.
Sixth man Sunday
In the final day of this 11-game road trip on Sunday in Phoenix, the Red Sox will slot in a sixth starter to give the regular rotation members a break. Cora isn’t yet saying who it will be, though it figures to be righty Hector Velázquez or lefty Brian Johnson.
The Red Sox are off on Monday, and ace Chris Sale will draw the home opener on Tuesday.
Vazquez evolving as game caller
With Sandy Leon being outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, there will be more focus on Christian Vázquez and how he handles the pitchers.
Leon has always been highly touted for his game-calling skills, and Sale and Rick Porcello threw regularly to him the last two years.
“He’s done a good job,” Cora said of Vazquez. “We saw that toward the end of last season. He caught most of the games in the playoffs. He understands [pitching coach] Dana [LeVangie]. At the same time, he uses information provided by our analytical team and he understands there has to be balance.
“Sometimes you feel that a team is doing this and all of a sudden Seattle happens. They have such a different team and different approach compared to last year. You have to make adjustments. It took us a while in Seattle but we finished well with the bullpen. He’s been fine. We saw that in October.”