Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia looks great in rehab appearance

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia /

Dustin Pedroia is nearing a return to the Boston Red Sox following a successful rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket.

A laser show is coming soon to Fenway Park. Dustin Pedroia took another step toward returning to the Boston Red Sox lineup by making the first start on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket.

The veteran second baseman played five innings on Monday, going 1-for-3 at the plate and cleanly fielding the only ball hit to him on defense.

Pedroia is working his way back from cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee. His production on the field was solid. More encouraging is how he felt coming out of his first appearance on his rehab assignment.

"“After I got out there in the first inning I didn’t think about my knee one time,” Pedroia told reporters in Pawtucket, per WEEI’s John Tomase. “That’s when you kind of know you’re good. So just continue going. Hopefully tomorrow I feel better than I did today and get after it.“I’m fine now,” Pedroia added. “I don’t have any issues. I think the work that we put in to get to this point, that’s the reason why. You’re going to see the same guy you’ve seen play for however many years I’ve played.”"

That’s a relief to the ears of Red Sox fans. While the team has raced out to the second-best record in the majors without Pedroia, his return will provide a clear upgrade at second base.

Eduardo Nunez has seen the majority of the time filling in at second base in Pedroia’s absence. Thus far he’s failed to recapture the magic that made him a key second-half addition last season. Nunez is hitting .239 with a .630 OPS.

The Red Sox have missed Pedroia’s glove even more than his bat. Nunez has committed only one error this season but we have to look beyond fielding percentage to understand his struggles in the field. Nunez has already cost the Red Sox -5 defensive runs saved, the second-worst mark among major league second basemen. His -0.5 UZR is fifth-worst at the position.

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Pedroia is four years removed from his last Gold Glove award and two years from when he was considered an elite defender. His -2 defensive runs saved last year was a bit below average, although it’s fair to wonder if his fielding was hindered by his ailing knee. The 34-year old may have lost a step but as long as he’s healthy then he can be counted to provide at least an above-average glove. That’s more than we can say for Nunez.

The return of Pedroia will push Nunez into the utility role he’s best suited for. Nunez still has value to this team. He’s just not the ideal choice to start every day at second base. Soon he won’t have to.

It’s unclear how long Pedroia’s rehab assignment will last. It’s a great sign that he came out of Monday’s game without any pain. The Red Sox need to ensure he can play consecutive games with the same result. He needs to play more than five innings in a game in order to build up his stamina. Pedroia didn’t have a normal spring training, so he’ll need some at-bats to get his timing at the plate.

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Pedroia isn’t all the way back yet but he’s getting close. His season debut could happen before the end of the month, which is about the timeframe we expected.