FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Dustin Pedroia, missing Opening Day -- and perhaps a few weeks after that -- will be a small price to pay for getting his career back.The scar on Pedroia's surgically-repaired left knee was there for all to see as he held court with the media
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Dustin Pedroia, missing Opening Day -- and perhaps a few weeks after that -- will be a small price to pay for getting his career back.
The scar on Pedroia's surgically-repaired left knee was there for all to see as he held court with the media on Saturday morning. For Pedroia, it serves as a reminder that the injury that pained him for all of last season is gone, and he will be able to enjoy the game again once he gets back.
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For the first time in Pedroia's career, he is looking at the big picture. He will follow the plan carefully, as outlined in his rehab.
Usually, Pedroia sets the tone at Spring Training from the very first workout. This year, he is confined to doing his work indoors on a weighted treadmill.
"I'm still excited and ready to go," Pedroia said. "It's just, they kind of have to make sure we look at the big picture and make sure I'm healthy through the remainder of my career, and I appreciate that from them. I kind of haven't taken that stance before, so it's been great."
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This will be the first time since Mark Loretta in 2006 that the Red Sox have had someone not named Pedroia play second base on Opening Day. Eduardo Nunez is likely to hold down second base for Boston in the interim, assuming he passes the physical necessary to complete his one-year contract.
Does Pedroia have a target date for returning? One reporter suggested May 15.
"Honestly, we haven't really set any dates like that," Pedroia said. "It's kind of monitored on a week-to-week thing. If I continue to make strides in one area, then I could do more. So far, the whole thing, I haven't had any setbacks. I've added more weight to each time I do an exercise, and it's been great."
Though Pedroia didn't make excuses for his diminished play down the stretch last season, it was clear to anyone who watched how hobbled he was. He now acknowledges how hard it was to go out there at far less than 100 percent.
"I don't feel that [pain] anymore," Pedroia said. "I think that's why the decision to have the surgery was important. If I didn't, then yeah, there would be kind of an issue. The way it's worked out, it was the best decision I could have made. My knee doesn't hurt. Last year, waking up and walking around was painful. It's not fun to live your life like that."
Pedroia acknowledged being down before the start of the American League Division Series against the Astros, confiding in teammate Xander Bogaerts at the time that he didn't envision being able to do much with his bat unless the pitch was right down the middle. He went 2-for-16 as the Red Sox lost in four games.
What gets Pedroia through his monotonous rehab exercises is the knowledge that he will feel like himself again when he returns.
The surgery Pedroia had was a cartilage restoration procedure.
"Having the surgery, I could tell immediately that I was feeling better. Not one time did I have any pain in the entire process. Now it's just building strength and getting back to being athletic and things like that, and your body picks that up quick."
Given the pounding the 34-year-old Pedroia takes on a daily basis playing second base, he asked the doctors before the surgery what it would be like once he plays again.
"I said, 'Listen man, I don't know if you've seen me play, I land on my legs about 100 times a game.'" Pedroia said. "He goes, 'Oh, I understand. What we're going to do is, it's going to basically give you tread on your tire and you can go crazy again. It's just a matter of building strength around it and doing the things that you've always done. You're just going to have cartilage now.'"
That was all Pedroia needed to hear before deciding to go ahead with it.
"I'm not worried about other areas of anything else," said Pedroia. "I take care of myself pretty good with the flexibility, things like that. This was just a thing that I had to get fixed, and now that it's fixed, I don't envision anything being a problem."
What is next for Pedroia?
"I'm on one of those weighted treadmill things at 80 percent weight. Next week, I go up for seven minutes," said Pedroia. "The week after, I'm supposed to go for 10 minutes. And then the week after that, I'm off that treadmill and running regular without the weight taken off. I'm ahead of schedule, so now it's just continuing with the process of it, and we'll go from there."
At some point in the not-too-distant future, the process will lead Pedroia back to his home at second base.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.