BOSTON — Dustin Pedroia started his work day at Fenway Park more than three hours before the start of Sunday’s game.

Boston’s second baseman played catch in short right field, took 35 swings in the batting cage and ran the bases. He fielded groundballs at his usual position ranging to both his left and right, feeding double-play partner Xander Bogaerts at second and flipping short throws to first.

Pedroia was upbeat in the clubhouse following the 45-minute session, and Red Sox Manager John Farrell felt the same when addressing the media regarding Pedroia’s status going forward. His left knee is responding to the point where Pedroia could be healthy enough to come off the disabled list Tuesday night at Tampa Bay.

“Today was a key day in his return – in his potential return,” Farrell said, perhaps betraying future plans with a brief slip of the tongue. “Today was a really strong day for him.”

Pedroia stepped into the cage under the watchful eye of Boston hitting coach Chili Davis and promptly began pulling line drives to left field. His eighth swing resulted in a shot off the wall and his 18th crashed into the third row of the Monster Seats. Pedroia dropped his bat, started jogging lightly and simulated taking leads off all three bases before returning for another round at the plate.

Similar to the much-discussed role setting up closer Craig Kimbrel in the Red Sox bullpen, Pedroia would return to what appears to be a bit of a logjam in the infield. Farrell said he’s committed to keeping third baseman Rafael Devers and utility man Eduardo Nunez in the everyday lineup, seemingly filling a pair of spots.

Bogaerts could find himself the odd man out at shortstop thanks to a .431 OPS over his last 30 days, perhaps not coincidentally dating back to a July 6 loss against the Rays where he was hit on the right hand by a Jacob Faria fastball.

“Having good players at your disposal is a positive,” Farrell said. “We’re probably going to have to get back to a normal number of relievers that we typically carry. That’s a full bench of four (position players) rather than three.”

That calculus would seem to be a positive for Brock Holt’s immediate future, as he and Nunez give Boston a pair of reserves who could be used in multiple roles.

Nunez has sizzled since being acquired in a deadline deal from San Francisco, pounding out seven extra-base hits and driving in 11. Devers has settled in quickly at the hot corner, becoming just the sixth player age 20 or younger since 1913 to collect 14 or more hits through his first nine games.

“In this game we also know things work themselves out,” Farrell said. “We’ll get there by Tuesday.”

The Red Sox had the benefit of three off days in an 11-day span. Farrell said Pedroia’s activation and availability will depend on pain management, and the extra opportunities to rest and recover could prove useful. Farrell also didn’t rule out using Pedroia as a designated hitter, something that could be necessary while Hanley Ramirez continues to battle a sore oblique.

“This is the first time that I can recall a schedule where we’ve got four off days in a matter of two weeks,” Farrell said. “I think that’s going to give us a chance, in some cases, to give that breather that’s needed.”

GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION

Eduardo Nunez is in pretty good company, as in the Hall of Fame variety.

Although rating overall impact is always subjective, a strong argument can be made that Nunez has gotten off to the best start in a Boston uniform of any midseason trade pickup since George Kell in 1952, among hitters at least.

The Red Sox have acquired some significant offensive players in midseason trades going back to Yoenis Cespedes in 2014. Victor Martinez (2009), Jason Bay (2008), Orlando Cabrera (2004) were all important offensive players gotten around the deadline in recent years.

None of them, though, had the immediate impact of Nunez.

Nunez hit his fourth Sox homer Sunday afternoon and is batting .400 with the four homers and 12 RBI in nine games with Boston. The Sox are 7-2 since his arrival from San Francisco.

All of Nunez’s five home runs here, including the one he hit off Josh Beckett in 2011 playing for the Yankees, have been hit either into or over the Monster seats.

“From what we’ve seen so far on this homestand,” Farrell said, “his swing path plays real well in this ballpark.”

Kell, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983, came over from Detroit in a June trade – the deadline was earlier then – involving Johnny Pesky in 1952 and batted .471 with two homers and six RBI in his first nine games with Boston.