August 16, 2010

On Baseball: Little man with big swagger is back Tuesday

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PAWTUCKET, R.I. - When Dustin Pedroia first reported to McCoy Stadium, he was 21 years old and fresh off a sizzling 66 games with the Portland Sea Dogs.

Back then, in 2005, Pedroia was a prospect with potential.

Now he is expected to be a savior.

Pedroia, who turns 27 on Tuesday, returned to McCoy this weekend for a rehab stint with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

The man who likes to use the term "laser show" when hitters are in a groove, Pedroia went 0 for 3 Sunday as the designated hitter.

No hits. So what?

"It was good enough," Pedroia said. "We don't have time (to be perfect). We're in a pennant race. I got to try and get back in there. I'll figure it out."

Pedroia, who went 1 for 3 on Saturday while playing second base, has declared himself ready. He has been on the disabled list since June 26 with a broken left foot.

He does not want to wait another day. When asked if he has to see the Red Sox doctors again, Pedroia did not hesitate.

"No. We're cleared."

Tuesday will be a birthday wish granted for Pedroia, and a gift to Red Sox followers.

"Everyone wants to see him get up there and knock the ball around and get base hits," Pawtucket Manager Torey Lovullo said. "That's going to happen.

"I thought the two days here he was very productive. He had a nice, balanced approached. The simple things we were looking for was him getting on that foot and running down the line. He did a great job."

Lovullo, like any manager, will miss Pedroia.

"All he wants to do is win," Lovullo said. "He said when he got there that we're going to go 2-0 while he's here."

And, sure enough, Pawtucket went 2-0, although Pedroia's contribution Sunday was a weakly hit grounder to the pitcher for a double play, and deep flies to right and left.

"I wanted to see pitches and hit the ball on the barrel," Pedroia said. "I hit two balls on the barrel. Other than my first at-bat, I'm pleased.

"I can't wait to get back in there Tuesday."

He is not the only one.

While injuries to starting pitchers affect the Red Sox the most, the subtraction of Pedroia has slowed Boston's attempt to overtake Tampa Bay and/or New York for a playoff spot.

Since Pedroia limped onto the disabled list, Boston has been barely better than a .500 team (23-22).

Obviously, other factors have hurt Boston's cause, including injuries to Josh Beckett, Edgar Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis (torn thumb muscle) is out for the year, while Ellsbury (ribs) and Cameron (abdominal tear) are probably lost for 2010.

Getting Pedroia and his swagger back can only be a boost.

"He has a very positive attitude," said veteran first baseman Carlos Delgado, trying to make a comeback with the Red Sox.

"He's intense. Listening to him talk, you think any minute someone is going to walk in, 6-foot-5, and 240 pounds. You got to love that attitude."

Pedroia, generously listed as 5-foot-9 by the Red Sox, has always had confidence, even back in his Sea Dogs days.

He was a second-round draft pick out of Arizona State in 2004 and was rushed through the minor leagues.

Pedroia began his first full professional season in 2005 in Portland (moving to second base, with the Sea Dogs already having a shortstop named Hanley Ramirez).

Pedroia batted .324 for Portland with eight home runs and 40 RBI. He did not last three months in Double-A, getting the call to Pawtucket on June 22.

You know the rest of the story: big contributor to the 2007 world championship team, American League MVP in 2008 and another All-Star season last year.

Along the way, Pedroia has become a major catalyst for Boston, on and off the field.

When Pedroia fouled a pitch off his foot in June, Boston lost a key bat, Golden Glove defense, and the swagger.

He comes back Tuesday.

"There are a lot of games left," Pedroia said. "We're going to make our run at it.

"I just want to win games."

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

 

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