Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia may not return in 2018
By Sean Penney
Dustin Pedroia admitted that he can’t guarantee that he’ll return to the field for the Boston Red Sox this season but doesn’t believe his career is over.
When the Boston Red Sox will see Dustin Pedroia back on the field remains a mystery, even to him.
Pedroia flew home to Arizona this week to continue rehab with a physical therapist that he worked with during the offseason. The veteran second baseman is recovering from surgery that he underwent on his left knee last October.
Pedroia opened the 2018 season on the disabled list. He returned to the team in late-May but lasted only three games before landing back on the DL with soreness in his surgically repaired knee.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Pedroia acknowledged that the clock is ticking on a potential return this season. For the first time, he actually admitted that he might not make it back in 2018.
But he will be back… eventually. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not this season. No matter how long it takes, Pedroia was adamant that his balky knee was not a career-threatening issue. In typical Pedroia fashion, he claims he’ll be better than ever once he’s healthy.
It’s been a frustrating process for a player who despises sitting out. Pedroia would play on one leg if the team let him. Yet he’s succumbed to the realization that there’s nothing he can do aside from put in the hours of rehab and allow his body the time to heal.
"“There’s no timetables. I can’t control how the human body heals,” said Pedroia. “It’s going to happen. But the timeframe I expected and the team expected, it’s going to be a little longer than that. I can’t do anything about time.”"
Time is a factor working against Pedroia this season and beyond. While you have to admire his perseverance, Pedroia faces a steep challenge in making it back to being an everyday player. The 34-year old was limited to 105 games last season and may not tack on more to the three that he’s appeared in this year. Injuries have taken their toll over the years and this lingering knee issue may be the worst yet.
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It doesn’t help that Pedroia plays a position that historically hasn’t aged well. The only Red Sox second baseman to play 100+ games past the age of 35 was Ski Melillo in 1935.
Pedroia is owed $40 million over the next three seasons. He’s not about to retire but there are legitimate questions about how often he’ll see the field over the next few years. We saw signs of the four-time Gold Glove winner slipping defensively last season. Maybe that was the knee prohibiting his movement but declining range is something all players deal with as they age.
How many games can Pedroia realistically hold up at second base moving forward? There may not be many opportunities to see playing time elsewhere with J.D. Martinez hogging most of the DH duties.
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The outlook is gloomy. Just don’t tell Pedroia that. He’s always played with a chip on his shoulder as the underdog who has overcome all the odds. It might not make sense to believe Pedroia can return to being a productive everyday player knowing his age and injury history. Yet knowing what we know about Pedroia, we can’t count him out.