Portland Sea Dogs infielder Dustin Pedroia signs autographs for fans before the team’s 2005 season opener at Hadlock Field. Staff File Photo by John Ewing

Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Portland Press Herald on April 5, 2005.

New Sea Dogs Manager Todd Claus likes to say he is all about “old school.” Baseball is not about flash, not about ego, not about stars. It’s work, hustle and teamwork.

That is why Claus smiles and his eyebrows rise when he hears the name Dustin Pedroia.

Dustin Pedroia had played just 42 professional games before joining the Portland Sea Dogs at the start of the 2005 season. Staff file photo

“Wait until you see this guy play,” Claus said when he first visited Portland months ago.

Of course, no one expected Pedroia to be in Portland right away. A year ago, he was still swinging an aluminum bat for Arizona State University.

But Pedroia is making the Red Sox scouting department look like smart guys with keen eyes. Drafted in the second round of the major-league draft last June, Pedroia has played only 42 games of pro ball, and he already is in Double-A. He will start at second base Thursday night in the season opener for the Portland Sea Dogs.

He is a prospect on the rise but refuses to let his head get caught in the ride.

“I’m excited about being here,” Pedroia said. “We’re going to have a great team. We’re just going there to win and play hard.”

But certainly even Pedroia could not expect to be in Portland so soon. The Red Sox also played him in some major-league spring training games. Ask him about it and Pedroia pauses. This is one of those “me” questions and Pedroia, 21, does not bite.

“I’m not reading too much into that,” he said. “I’m just trying to get ready for the season. I’m just learning day by day, just like a lot of other guys are.”

Pedroia is 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds. Comparisons have been made to 5-7 shortstop David Eckstein, once a Red Sox minor-leaguer but Boston gave up on him.

Eckstein was an overachiever. He moved on to start for the Angels and then signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals.

Pedroia was not drafted out of Woodland (Calif.) High School, but he proved himself at Arizona State, playing every game for three seasons.

During spring training in 2005, the Red Sox gave minor leaguer Dustin Pedroia No. 77. He would make it to the major leagues late in the 2006 season. Staff File Photo by John Ewing

He may be used to being overlooked because of his size, but Pedroia said it is not a concern.

“I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I don’t read into stuff in the media.

“I just care about how my teammates think of me. They know when I’m out there I’m going to play hard for every one of them. That’s all I care about.”

Baseball America, the baseball publication that list Pedroia as the sixth-best prospect in the Red Sox system, compares him to Jody Reed, the former Red Sox second baseman who had converted from shortstop.

The comparison comes because Pedroia is moving from shortstop. When he looks across second base, he can see the reason – Boston’s No. 1 prospect, Hanley Ramirez, is the Sea Dogs’ shortstop.

Ask Pedroia about that and, well, the answer was predictable.

“I went in with a clear head. Wherever they were going to play me, I was going to play hard,” he said. “I’m just going to play my game and hopefully get to the big leagues soon.”

So far, there is little not to like about Pedroia’s chances. When he signed with the Red Sox last July, they already were challenging him, skipping him past the short-season Lowell team and sending him right to the lower Class A minors.

Could he handle it? After 12 games, he was batting .400, with an on-base percentage of .474.

Pedroia was promoted to the upper Class A level. He batted .336 in 30 games (.417 on-base percentage).

In 157 at-bats, he struck out only seven times, while stroking 13 doubles, three triples and three home runs, totaling 19 RBI. He made no errors.

“His performance was really unbelievable,” said Red Sox farm director Ben Cherington, who rarely uses such descriptions.

Pedroia played shortstop last year, and he will not give up his position completely. But while Ramirez is here, Pedroia is primarily a second baseman.

So there are several reasons to bet against Pedroia. He is adjusting to a new position, at a higher level of pro ball. And he is only 5-8, with little experience.

But in the short time he has played in the Red Sox system, he showed he can be good enough to be successful, and mature enough to handle it. Bet against him?

The smart money won’t.


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