Red Sox Fans Should Temper Expectations In Pedroia's Return


Dustin Pedroia made his Grapefruit League debut for the Red Sox on Thursday, his first appearance on a major league diamond since the end of last May.  In my latest Red Sox Column to be Named Later, I look at what we can expect this season from the second baseman, as well as the impact of the Steven Wright suspension, and Alex Cora’s handling of his starting pitchers this spring.

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One of the few disappointments of the 2018 Red Sox season was the mismanagement of Pedroia’s knee injury which limited him to only three games.  The prognosis when he returned from offseason surgery called for him to be ready to go in late March, and Pedroia pushed for that to happen.  Unfortunately his knee was not ready, and his season was lost.

This year the Red Sox have been more cautious about Pedroia’s return, although Manager Alex Cora has stated that if he is healthy, Pedroia will lead off in the season opener in Seattle.  A nice gesture, but it could again lead to unrealistic expectations.  And even if Pedroia can stay relatively healthy, what can we expect from the 36 year-old after virtually missing a full season? 

One of the things that has endeared Pedroia to Red Sox fans has been the hard-nosed manner in which he plays the game, which likely led to his knee injury in the first place.  Pedroia has dived for countless balls in the field and slid into countless bases.  His body has taken a beating in his 11 year career.  It is unlikely he will last very long if he continues to play with that intensity now that he is heading into his late 30’s.

Shop for Boston Red Sox fan gear from Nike, Majestic and New Era at Shop.MLB.comCora will have the tough task of trying to hold back his friend and former teammate and manage his playing time to keep him healthy and productive.  Fans can’t expect Pedroia to be penciled into the lineup every night as has been done in the past.  What fans can expect, at least initially, is more of a rotation at second with Brock Holt getting a good chunk of playing time with an Eduardo Nunez sighting.

Holt is a more than serviceable replacement both in the field and at bat.  Nunez has had his difficulties the last two seasons due to a knee injury of his own, but he has reportedly recovered and is showing more agility than he did last season, when his lack of range was a significant issue for a second baseman.  Ian Kinsler, who was brought in at the trade deadline last year and was the primary starter in the postseason, was allowed to leave via free agency.

If it turns out Pedroia can’t play, the Red Sox will be faced with few other options within the organization.  Tzu-Wei Lin is a nice player to have in Pawtucket when you need emergency help in the infield, but no one is projecting him to be anything beyond a 4A player.  The Red Sox have no other prospects in the minors with experience at second base, though they have expressed an interest in getting Michael Chavis some work there once the minor league season begins.  It is doubtful he could be ready to play second at the major league level any time soon.  But if he continues to hit, he could be the second baseman of the future.

Would the Red Sox seriously consider moving Mookie Betts back to second base?  Not in a million years.

One other long-shot possibility is another infielder who, like Pedroia, has missed most of the past two seasons – Marco Hernandez.  Hernandez has been on the shelf with a shoulder injury, and is still not cleared to play.  He showed some flashes in limited play in 2016, batting .294 in 40 games.  He followed that up with a respectable .276 in 21 games in 2017 filling in for Pedroia before hurting his shoulder.  He’s still only 26, and if he can return to health, he could factor into the second base mix for the future.

For Starters

Dustin Pedroia has not been the only player that has been carefully managed in spring training.  The four pitchers expected to be at the top of the rotation, Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi, have yet to make their first appearance.  Cora was clear that he was going to be cautious with the group after the heavy workload that was put on the group in the postseason, pulling double duty pitching out of the bullpen in between starts.  All will be getting their first starts over the next few days.

Cora has also already committed to go with a six man rotation the first time through the rotation.  With built-in days off, this would give each starter at least a week between starts.  Don’t be surprised if this carries on beyond the first time through the rotation, or is not revisited at some point during the season.  With uncertainty in the bullpen, the starters will be relied upon to pitch deeper into games than they have in the past few seasons.

The projected fifth starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, has already made two starts this spring.  Neither have been impressive.  Cora even called out the left-hander for failing to go after hitters in his last outing against the Mets. “We want him to go deeper into games,” said Cora. “He’s been in the league a long, long time.  It’s time for him to step up.”  Harsh words for a spring training game, but a clear message putting E-Rod on notice that he needs to gain consistency and pitch to his talents.

Steven Wright

The 80 game suspension for knuckleballer Steven Wright for PED once again proved that it isn’t only the jacked home run hitters that try to gain an advantage.  Wright claims that he has no idea how the banned substance got into his body, but we have heard that from other athletes who have tested positive in the past.  We didn’t believe them, and we shouldn’t believe Wright.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Red Sox Fans Should Temper Expectations In Pedroia's Return
Red Sox Fans Should Temper Expectations In Pedroia's Return
Boston Sports Syndicate
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