Red Sox: What Dustin Pedroia’s return means for Nunez and Holt

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 13: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park on September 13, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 13: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park on September 13, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Longtime Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia made his return to the diamond this week in spring training. It had been the first time Pedroia played in a game since early 2018.

There had been some conversation for a while surrounding just who would step up and be the leader in Boston once David Ortiz hung up his cleats a few seasons back. Many brought up the name of longtime Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. However, due to multiple trips to the disabled list, fans began to question, can he really be the heart and soul of a team? The face of the franchise? If all he does is sit on the bench.

According to the man himself, the Red Sox don’t have one singular leader, they band together as a team. Pedroia had this to say about his teammates in Spring Training last season in a piece from

"I think they’re all at a point now where they understand that, and you can see when their personality comes out. Mookie’s more vocal; Bogey will be more vocal. Benny, he’ll get here. But that’s what we need."

Despite missing all but 3 of Boston’s 162 games last season, Pedroia was still there night in and night out on the bench, cheering on his teammates. All the while behind the scenes, he was scratching and clawing his way through his recovery process to get back on the field. Now, at 35 years of age, the ‘Laser Show’ is finally back in game shape.

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He saw his first action of the spring earlier this week against the Twins at JetBlue Park, making a few routine plays in the field as well as chalking up a base hit and coming around to score Boston’s first and only run of the game.

With Pedroia working his way back to full strength, what does this mean now for the two men who platooned at the position last season, Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez?

Both of whom are fantastic plug-and-play guys for second-year skipper Alex Cora. Holt, who has played every position besides pitcher and catcher, will surely find an opportunity in the lineup at some point this season. The ‘Brock-Star’ hit .277 while raking in 46 RBI last season, and provided some strong defensive reliability as well.

On the flip side, Nunez has had his own history of injury struggles, most recently dealing with a hamstring issue in the American League Division Series against the Yankees last year. Though he’s been up and down throughout his tenure in Boston, Nunez provided Cora with a shoulder to lean on at the hot corner during Rafael Devers‘ absence last year, hitting a respectable .265 and driving in 44 runs.

If Pedroia is healthy and ready to go come March 28th when Boston travels to Seattle to kick off the season, he will be the go-to guy until proven otherwise. However, he likely won’t be used in his usual number two slot in the order that we’re used to seeing.

With the proven success of the Betts-Benintendi-Bogaerts combo to lead off the order, that forces Cora’s hand to push Pedroia down in the lineup, something that he hasn’t had to deal with during his entire 14-year MLB career.

Although Pedroia is expected to be ready in time for early season action, don’t expect him to take on a heavy workload right away. He will have days where he struggles and he’ll be out of the lineup the next day. For Cora, this will be the first time he’ll have to work a major piece of the puzzle back in the mix on a day-by-day basis.

A lifetime .300 hitter, it has been proven time and time again that when healthy, Pedroia is one of the most productive second basemen in all of baseball. Sure, there is a new wave of younger, faster players at the position, but Pedey is as trustworthy as they come, and 2019 will be no different.

As for his teammates that were mentioned earlier, their roles will be crucial to the success of the Red Sox for this year and beyond. Last season they did a phenomenal job at filling in wherever necessary, and this season with Pedroia back in the fold, it almost puts Cora in a spot where he has too much depth.

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It’s a good problem to have, but it helps that the two are extremely versatile, and could fill in for virtually any of the infield positions. No matter if it’s on the field or in the dugout, Pedroia will always be the ultimate teammate and the undoubted vocal leader of the Boston Red Sox.