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Pedroia thrilled to be back on the diamond

@IanMBrowne
April 9, 2019

BOSTON -- As if there wasn't enough excitement for Tuesday's ring ceremony and home opener at Fenway Park, the Red Sox added another jolt of energy by activating second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the injured list. Though a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays and a 1-for-4 performance at the

BOSTON -- As if there wasn't enough excitement for Tuesday's ring ceremony and home opener at Fenway Park, the Red Sox added another jolt of energy by activating second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the injured list.

Though a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays and a 1-for-4 performance at the plate wasn't exactly what Pedroia had in mind, he was thrilled to be back on the field.

For Pedroia, who batted seventh, it was his first Major League game since May 29, 2018. The veteran leader was limited to just three games last season due to ongoing left knee woes.

"I felt good. It was great to be out there," said Pedroia. "Obviously I wish we'd won. But it's been a long time since I've been able to do that and it was fun."

When Pedroia stepped in for his first at-bat, the crowd showered him with a nice ovation.

"It was awesome," Pedroia said. "I mean, it kind of messed me up. My first couple at-bats, I was trying too hard and I was kind of in a big spot. But I appreciate it so much. I think everyone knows what I've been going through and trying to come back from, so it means a lot."

Finally, that injury seems to be behind Pedroia, who had a solid Spring Training and a smooth three-game Minor League rehab assignment for Class A Greenville that concluded on Sunday.

"My knee can't get any worse, so it's going to be all right," said Pedroia. "It is what it is. I'm just excited to be out here and be able to help the team and play and be around the guys. It's going to be fun."

And on defense, Boston finally has its de facto infield captain back. Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt had been filling in for Pedroia, as they did for much of 2018.

"Defensively, he's a plus," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Pedroia. "Nothing against the other two guys, because they've done a good job, in Nuney and Brock. But Pedey is elite. Elite at second base. He turns the double play, he makes the play to his left, he's a leader in the infield, he can slow down things for the kids out there. So for the plus he brings offensively, I think defensively he's going to be a game-changer for us."

Cora will be careful not to overuse Pedroia, though he chose not to outline his specific plan to the media.

"We'll keep it in the clubhouse," Cora said. "I have a pretty good idea. Obviously we have to see how he reacts or whatever, but I have a pretty good idea."

After almost a full season without him, Boston was glad to have Pedroia back.

"He brings that energy that not many people have," said first baseman Mitch Moreland. "Having him back and running around here, picking everybody up is nice."

The comeback definitely comes at a good time for the Red Sox, who are 3-9.

"After finding out the news and seeing him here, it obviously puts a smile on your face with all he means to the team, the city, the community and I think just the baseball world in general," said Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "To have him back on our team I think is huge."

Pedroia underwent cartilage restoration surgery in his left knee after playing through discomfort and spending time on the IL during the 2017 season.

The 35-year-old last played a full season in 2016, when he appeared in 154 games and hit .318. In '17, he played in 105 games and hit .293, but hit .229 in August and September after IL stints with left knee inflammation.

Pedroia is a four-time All-Star, winner of the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year Award and won the AL MVP Award in '08.

Was the home opener the plan all along once the team decided Pedroia wasn't ready for Opening Day in Seattle?

"They never really put a day or a goal or anything like that. The goal is to finish three years," said Pedroia, referring to the remaining length of his contract. "That's the goal. But to be able to play at home in the home opener, it meant a lot to me. I feel like I accomplished something out of this. During the whole thing, I haven't really had any good news or anything. Go see a doctor and he gives you bad news. At some point, you want something good. So this meant a lot."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.