BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia once seemed as familiar to Red Sox fans as the Green Monster. A fixture in the lineup and at second base, Pedroia set the tone with his all-out style of play for over a decade.Yet this Spring Training, when Pedroia takes the field for his daily
BOSTON -- Dustin Pedroia once seemed as familiar to Red Sox fans as the Green Monster. A fixture in the lineup and at second base, Pedroia set the tone with his all-out style of play for over a decade.
Yet this Spring Training, when Pedroia takes the field for his daily work, there will be a renewed sense of excitement and curiosity from all those who will watch him.
Pedroia was mainly limited to indoor rehab work last spring as he tried to come back from major surgery on his left knee. And when he finally did make it back from the injured list in late May, Pedroia was there for just three games before another setback that kept him out for the rest of the season.
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It says something about the strength of the 2018 Red Sox that they still managed to win 108 games in the regular season and the World Series in October without their fiery leader and longest-tenured player.
That doesn't mean they want to win again without Pedroia.
It would be sweeter for everyone involved if Pedroia can re-establish his health in 2019 and take part in Boston's efforts to repeat. In many ways, Pedroia will be the player to watch for the Sox this spring.
Though there won't be a definitive indication until Pedroia undergoes his physical at the beginning of camp, the expectation is that he will be on the field instead of the training room starting with the first full-squad workout on Feb. 18.
"He's had treatments in the wintertime. He's in a position where he's continued to progress," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. "So, it's a step-by-step process. The anticipation is that he can be ready for the season. I also don't think we will expect him to play 150 games anymore. And I think part of the key is going to be how his knee holds up from playing the game of baseball.
"I'm sure we're not going to play him every day in Spring Training. There will be a build-up attached to that, and I think a little bit will be dependent upon once we start playing games and he gets more exposure doing that, because it's different. So, that's why I think that we're in a position where we're monitoring what's taken place, we're optimistic, but I don't know that you'll ever know until you get to that spot."
Not only was Pedroia out for basically all of last season, but he was a shell of himself in 2017, playing through pain in his left knee that was exacerbated big-time when Manny Machado spiked him early that season in Baltimore.
In 2016, the last season Pedroia felt like himself, he slashed .318/.376/.449 with 15 homers and 74 RBIs. Playing on the one leg in '17, Pedroia somehow managed to hit .293, but his production (seven homers, .760 OPS) and limited range on defense was notable.
At 35, Pedroia will be determined to re-establish himself as a core member of a lineup that includes stars Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts.
"I just want him to be patient," manager Alex Cora said. "I think that's the most important thing. In his case we know it's very difficult. It's been a good offseason for him for everything he says. Hopefully when he gets there in Spring Training, he's a go and we can see him bouncing back and doing all the good things offensively and defensively, see him move around and see him smile again."
During Boston's playoff run, Pedroia earned high marks within the organization for sticking around and serving as a mentor/coach to his teammates. Still, it wasn't the same.
"For how great he was last year [behind the scenes], it was a tough one," Cora said. "But he was a great teammate. He was very helpful for us. But on the field, he's more helpful than on the bench."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.