FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Emphasizing multiple times that Dustin Pedroia hasn’t had any setbacks with his left knee, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Monday morning that the veteran second baseman will start the season on the 10-day injured list.
“We’re running out of time, so we’re going to keep him on schedule,” said Cora. “He’ll play Tuesday. He’ll play Thursday. He’ll play Saturday. Then he will play one of the two [exhibition] games against the Cubs [next week in Arizona], and then he’ll come back here to keep building up. No setbacks. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
Given the significance of the left knee issues Pedroia has had the last two seasons, the Red Sox have gone at a conservative pace with him this spring to make sure he keeps building momentum.
Interestingly, Pedroia feels he is ready for Opening Day, which is March 28 at Seattle, but also expressed an understanding why the team is taking a different approach.
“They have had to hold me back. I’m ready for Opening Day,” said Pedroia. “It’s just they’re scared. No one has ever come back from something like this. They want me to make sure I follow the right steps to do that and make sure everyone is 100-percent confident that when I come back, I come back and stay back and not have any issues.”
Playing without Pedroia early in the season won’t be a big adjustment for the Red Sox. Last season, Pedroia played just three games. Veterans Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt will split duties at second base while Pedroia is out, just as they did for much of 2018.
The Red Sox open the season with 11 games in 11 days on the West Coast. Instead of replacing Pedroia with an infielder, Boston will carry 13 pitchers on its roster to start the season.
After playing in pain throughout the 2017 season, Pedroia underwent a cartilage replacement procedure in his left knee. Pedroia and teammate Steven Wright became the first baseball players to ever have such a surgery.
The rehab was a grueling one, and Pedroia said earlier this spring that if he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t have had the surgery. Pedroia’s attempted comeback last year was short-lived, and he had an arthroscopic procedure last July.
But things have gone much better this spring, and Pedroia is optimistic that he can have a productive season.
The Red Sox didn’t feel it was right to rush him the last week of Spring Training, just so that he could play Opening Day. Pedroia played his first Grapefruit League game on March 7, and will play his fifth game Tuesday.
“We just feel we need more time, whether it’s back-to-backs, or more innings. It’s actually not the at-bats,” said Cora. “There’s not a target date. I think the target day will be the day he shows up and we’re comfortable where he’s at as far as the workload and he’ll be ready.”
Pedroia would like to be ready by the home opener, which is April 9 against the Blue Jays.
“We’ll see. Hopefully,” Pedroia said. “I feel like I’m ready now. Once I build up more innings and see how everything responds and things like that, is the big test. I definitely feel like I’m ready for that and we’ll see.”
With Pedroia under contract for three more years, both sides could see the importance of balancing the short and long term in mapping out his schedule.
“He understands,” Cora said. “Obviously a little bit down, which is great. That means he’s feeling good. No pushback. Obviously, he had certain goals and we respect that, we know that. But he understands this isn’t only for this year. This is a plan for three years. We need him to keep playing. He’ll be OK.”
Pedroia sounded more matter of fact than defiant in discussing where he feels he is in his comeback.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Pedroia said. “It’s just they want to see how my knee responds when I do [ramp up the progression], which I understand. We’ll just go from there. It’s only, I think, a week or something, the plan that they set. If it’s, 'Be smart for a week' and we make sure I respond great to everything thrown at me, then it’s a good decision.”
“If this wasn’t me and it was one of my teammates going through this, I’d be like, ‘Hey, man, relax, take the extra week.’ It’s not one of my teammates. That’s it.”
The 35-year-old last played a full season in 2016, when he appeared in 154 games and hit .318. In 2017, he played in 105 games and hit .293, but hit .229 in August and September after IL stints due to the left knee inflammation.
Pedroia is a four-time All-Star for the Red Sox and won the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year Award and 2008 AL Most Valuable Player Award. He will receive his third World Series championship ring in April.