Spring training games normally don’t carry much clout. However, that won’t be the case for the Boston Red Sox toward the end of the week.
Depending on the call of manager Alex Cora, veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia will be making his spring debut either Thursday or Friday. At the moment, he’s most likely to first take the field on Friday given that Thursday’s affair is a nationally televised game.
Cora doesn’t want Pedroia to try and do too much on the bigger stage, which heightens the risk of re-aggravating the left knee that has hampered him for much of the last two seasons. The 35-year-old played in 105 games back in 2017 and saw just three games of action in 2018.
Early returns on Pedroia’s status for the end of the week have been good. The four-time All-Star and 2008 AL MVP went through extensive workouts on Monday that went off without a hitch, including a batting-practice home run to straight-away center field that the veteran admitted he had never pulled off before in his life.
While batting practice bashes are promising, legitimate game action at the end of the week will allow the Red Sox to get an actual look at what they have with Pedroia for 2019.
“I can do everything,” Pedroia told reporters. “They just don’t want me to do everything all the time right away. So, it’s slowly building up, but no, I feel great. Just keep it rolling.”
Should he prove to Cora and the Red Sox’s medical staff that he’s at or near 100-percent, then it is expected that he will play between 120 and 125 games this season. As it stands, Pedroia is still penciled in as Boston’s starting second baseman on Opening Day which is a bit of a gamble. But Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez provide capable options that will be available to fill in when needed.
Nunez, who will also play games at third base this season, is batting .364 in 11 at-bats this spring. Holt is batting .333 with one home run and four RBI.
Red Sox fans expecting to see the Pedroia of old should limit their expectations. While his health looks promising, Pedroia’s better days are behind him and will probably need some time to acclimate to live play after seeing just 11 at-bats last year.
Regardless, there shouldn’t be a ton of pressure on the veteran to re-create some of his prime seasons. With a combination of Holt, Nunez, and veteran Ian Kinsler — who is now with the San Diego Padres — the Red Sox had their best season in franchise history that culminated with a World Series championship.
The Red Sox face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, and the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.