HOUSTON -- Perhaps Red Sox manager Alex Cora should have found some wood to knock on Friday afternoon when he said this about Dustin Pedroia:
“As far as soreness and all that, no red flags the last few days, which is good. We’ll just keep rolling,” Cora said.
After two at-bats in Friday night’s Minor League rehab game for Double-A Portland, Pedroia exited with some discomfort in a problematic left knee that has bothered him for the last three seasons.
“He didn’t feel right,” Cora said after Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Astros. “No slides [or anything], he didn’t feel right after the second [at-bat] so he decided that was enough today. We’ll see how it goes and we’ll know a little bit more tomorrow.”
In his latest rehab assignment -- which started May 18 -- Pedroia has played six games while going 3-for-23. Pedroia had a previous rehab assignment halted on May 9 when he suffered some bruising after a diving play.
His current rehab assignment expires on June 5, though the Sox could again restart the clock if his knee remains sore.
“With Pedey, he’s making strides offensively. I know the numbers are not there but if you look at the at-bats, his stride is getting better. He was actually, like flying open and stepping into the bucket, but little by little, he’s getting close,” Cora said before Friday night’s setback. “That’s a good sign. He’s in a good spot, too. We’ve been talking on a daily basis, and the feedback we’re getting from [hitting coach Rich Gedman] and the people down there, it seems like he’s not getting to pitches but his foundation is getting closer to what he used to be.
The news is better for Brock Holt, who started at shortstop for Portland on Friday night and went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Holt could return to the Red Sox as early as this weekend in Houston. The super-utility player has been on the injured list since April 6 due to a scratched cornea in his right eye and then a right shoulder impingement.
The Red Sox received a boost for the opener of their three-game showdown against the Astros as star slugger J.D. Martinez returned to the lineup on Friday and went 0-for-3.
Martinez didn’t play in the four-game series at Toronto due to illness and back spasms. But he was cleared to return on Friday, as the Red Sox prepared to play the Astros for the second consecutive weekend in a rematch of last year’s American League Championship Series, which Boston won in five games.
“He’s better,” said Cora. “He hit earlier so he’s ready to go. [Astros manager] AJ [Hinch] was hoping he didn’t play this weekend but he makes the big bucks, he has to play.”
The Astros and Red Sox are MLB’s last two World Series champions. Houston took two out of three in Boston last weekend. The Red Sox will be looking to return the favor.
For the season, the right-handed Martinez, a former member of the Astros, is hitting .308/.390/.521 with nine homers and 29 RBIs.
“He needs it,” Cora said of Devers. “He’s been playing every game, getting on base at a high rate, running the bases. He played all the games in Toronto. You guys know how I feel about the turf in Tampa and Toronto. Just a breather against a lefty on the mound.
"He’s been amazing. Start looking at stats and where he’s at in the league, all that, it’s fun. We’re very proud of him because he worked in the offseason to get to his weight down and working on his defense and all that. Everything is paying off.”
It was an interesting experience for the Red Sox flying from Toronto to Houston following Thursday afternoon’s win. Due to mechanical issues, the Sox had to land in Detroit, then switched planes and arrived in Houston after midnight.
Aside from some dinner plans being foiled, it was just a minor inconvenience.
“I will never complain if a flight has to go somewhere else because of mechanical limitations,” said Cora. “I will never complain. We’re here.
"They said, ‘We’re going to Detroit,’ I’m like, 'OK, cool.' I just missed dinner. [Astros hitting coach] Alex Cintron, he got lucky. I’ll get him tomorrow.”