PORTLAND — With the infield pulled in, the sharply-hit grounder zipped by Dustin Pedroia.

Dustin Pedroia catches a grounder and makes the throw to first to get the out. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

“I almost got it,” Pedroia said.

He got the next one. Another hard grounder was backhanded by Pedroia, starting a 4-6-3 double play, as the Hadlock Field crowd cheered.

Pedroia, 35, is in Portland on a rehab assignment with the Sea Dogs, in another attempt to get his surgically-repaired left knee to cooperate. Pedroia played five innings Thursday night, going 0 for 3 with a groundout and two flyouts to right-center.

“Good to get back out there,” Pedroia said.

But can he stay out there? Or, does Pedroia ever wonder if his career is coming to an end?

“I don’t know. I hope my knee holds up because I’m still good. You know what I mean?” Pedroia said from the Hadlock clubhouse.

“It’s making sure my knee can withstand being a major league player. That’s what we’re hoping. We need a little luck. It’s going to happen.”

Pedroia plans to take Friday off and be back in the Sea Dogs’ lineup on Saturday.

“Got to build up. We’ll take it day by day. Hopefully, everything goes smooth,” he said.

If all goes smoothly, Pedroia will get back in the majors – and stay there. This is already his second rehab assignment this season. Last year, he played more rehab games for Pawtucket (five) than games for Boston (three).

Pedroia began this year on a rehab assignment with the Greenville (S.C.) Drive. He joined Boston April 8 and played 6 of 8 games. But on April 17 in New York, Pedroia left in the second inning with knee discomfort. He landed back on the injured list.

With every injury, the speculation is that Pedroia is finished. But he simply takes a breath and begins rehabbing.

“I kind have of dealt with a lot,” he said. “You can only do what you can do … Just put my head down and work.

“Do the best I can and try to be out there. It’s been a long process. Hopefully by the end of this rehab assignment, we’re over it and I can be out there and do what I love doing.”

Throughout his career, Pedroia has dealt with injuries – wrist, thumb, foot, knee. He’s had eight surgeries in the past 12 years.

The main trouble remains his left knee. After the 2016 season, Pedroia had surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He played only 105 games in 2017 – an aggressive slide into Pedroia by Manny Machado didn’t help. Pedroia underwent major surgery – cartilage restoration – after the season. He never got healthy in 2018, although he did collect his third World Series ring. David Ortiz is the only other Boston player to receive three rings this century.

Portland fans first saw Pedroia in 2005, a 21-year-old in his first full professional season. He was on Boston’s fast track and stayed with the Sea Dogs for only 66 games, batting .324, with a .917 OPS and eight home runs.

Pedroia reached the majors the next season and, in 2007, was the American League Rookie of the Year, celebrating a World Series title.

Back in Portland Thursday night, Pedroia attracted a crowd of autograph seekers before the game, and received cheers with every at-bat or ground ball he fielded. The announced paid attendance was 4,038 (actual crowd was closer to 3,000)

“Great place to play,” Pedroia said, adding with a laugh, “it doesn’t carry to right center, though.”

Facing the 93-94 mph fastballs off lefty Anthony Kay, Pedroia grounded to short in the first inning. The ball jumped off his bat on the next two plate appearances, only to die quickly in the damp, cool Portland air.

The Red Sox, like Pedroia, have gotten off to a slow start. But it’s May.

“It’s early. What have we played, 32 games? We got 130 left. That’s a lot of baseball games,” Pedroia said. “We have a long way to go.”

It’s a long road to September, maybe October. Pedroia hopes he’s healthy enough to make the journey.

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