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Around the Horn: Middle infield

Pedroia, Bogaerts set to resume dynamic double-play combo
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

With the start of Spring Training less than a month away, anticipation is building for the 2016 season. MLB.com is going around the horn to break down each area of the Red Sox, continuing with the middle infield.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts didn't wait until Spring Training to start turning double plays. The pair that makes up the Red Sox's middle infield likes to train together during the offseason in Arizona.

With the start of Spring Training less than a month away, anticipation is building for the 2016 season. MLB.com is going around the horn to break down each area of the Red Sox, continuing with the middle infield.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts didn't wait until Spring Training to start turning double plays. The pair that makes up the Red Sox's middle infield likes to train together during the offseason in Arizona.

Over the years, Pedroia and Bogaerts have developed a classic mentor/protégé dynamic. Pedroia sets a tone with his work ethic, and Bogaerts absorbs his lessons like a sponge.

The two have an easy chemistry. Pedroia is pleased that Bogaerts is constantly trying to get better. Meanwhile, Bogaerts is grateful for the tutelage and the humorous trash talking from his teammate.

Of all the areas of the Red Sox, the double-play combo could be the most solid.

Pedroia is a four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner. Then there's the ultra-talented Bogaerts, who is 23 years old and possibly on the cusp of gaining the type of recognition Pedroia has earned over the years.

Though Bogaerts didn't become an All-Star last year, he certainly had the credentials, hitting .320 with 196 hits and 35 doubles. If the home runs start coming this season, Bogaerts could emerge into a superstar.

As thrilled as Boston was with the strides Bogaerts made offensively in 2015, the most crucial development was the improvement of his defense. Bogaerts made an assortment of glittering plays last year and just about always made the routine ones.

Video: BAL@BOS: Bogaerts makes a diving stop to end the game

"I always knew I had good hands, but just making all those plays, sometimes I'm like, 'Wow, you really came a long way. Definitely be proud of yourself.'" Bogaerts said at the end of the 2015 season. "Now I've learned to throw the ball more accurately over there. I learned what my body needs to do, the right position I need to be in. That was the best thing for me, just kind of realizing and understanding what I needed to do to get into a good position."

While Bogaerts continues to focus on tuning up the technical aspects of the game, the 32-year-old Pedroia has long since mastered those. His goal is simple -- to stay healthy.

Video: BOS@BAL: Pedroia blows game open with second homer

With his hands finally healthy again and his power back, Pedroia seemed primed to make 2015 his best season in years. But then came that fateful day in late June when Pedroia hobbled off the field with a right hamstring injury -- one that took months to fully recover.

"I'd never pulled a muscle in my life until I skidded out and my leg hyperextended," Pedroia said in October. "It could be worse though. I could have hurt my knee. That's the way I kind of look at it."

Pedroia has been tireless this offseason in trying to get his body in the best shape possible to avoid some of those injuries that have dogged him the last few years.

"When I'm on the field, I've done good things," Pedroia said. "But it's disappointing to get hurt and miss time. I've just got to learn from it, come back, try to be better. My job is to come out there and play. It's frustrating."

While Pedroia spent much of last winter hitting the weights and regaining some of the strength he lost, a focus this offseason was reflexes.

Video: MIN@BOS: Pedroia makes a slick sliding grab at second

"We talked about emphasizing quickness, and I think at his age, you end up being where you need to do that," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "I heard the same thing about Ian Kinsler a couple of years ago, and then he had his best two years defensively that he's ever had. Part of that was he changed his program and that he worked more on his quickness at that time. I've seen that work with guys.

"When you talk about Dustin, you're talking about a premier defensive second baseman, one of the best defensive second basemen statistically in history. I can't tell you he's quite at that level [at this stage], but I still think he's got a chance to be a real good defensive second baseman."

If Boston loses Pedroia or Bogaerts to injury, the ultra-versatile Brock Holt is capable of filling in at either spot. Deven Marrero, a terrific defender, provides more organizational depth in the middle infield.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia