BOSTON — Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia joined elite company Friday when he drilled his 100th career home run — a grand slam, mind you — into the Monster seats to help pave the way for a 7-1 win over the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park.
Pedroia’s 100th career homer, which extended Boston’s lead to 6-1 in the sixth inning, supplements the four-time All-Star’s 121 career stolen bases, making him only the second player ever with at least 100 home runs and 100 steals as a member of the Red Sox. The other: Carl Yastrzemski.
“That’s crazy. I guess I’m getting old,” Pedroia joked after being informed of the statistic. “But just having your name anywhere said with (Yastrzemski’s) is an accomplishment.”
Pedroia has a long way to go to catch Yastrzemski — who launched 452 home runs over the course of his 23-year career in Boston — but the 30-year-old is starting to swing the bat with greater authority of late, particularly since getting his wrist checked out a couple of weeks ago.
“I think you see some aggressiveness on pitches, particularly up in the strike zone,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “A few more doubles to the pull side. And more than anything, there’s peace of mind knowing that structurally everything is sound (in his wrist) and there’s no issues there. I think he’s in a pretty good place as far as swinging the bat goes.”
Pedroia not only received some peace of mind after an MRI revealed no structural damage to his sore wrist last month, but his thumb injury of a year ago also is in the rear-view mirror. The clean bill of health has enabled Pedroia to focus more on swinging the bat how he normally would, rather than fighting his own body just to stay on the field.
“It wasn’t really bad habits,” Pedroia said of last season, when he hit just nine home runs — his lowest total since 2007 — while dealing with the thumb ailment. “I was just trying to find a way to compete every day. Obviously, it wasn’t what I normally do. But I got it fixed (with offseason surgery) and you do the rehab process and you get your strength back, so you try to find ways to get back and remember what type of player you are. When the ball travels, it comes to me. That’s when I’m strong.”
Pedroia is beginning to look stronger every day despite Friday’s blast being his first home run of 2014. The former Silver Slugger reached base in a season-high 12 straight games before the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays, and he has a team-high 10 multihit games this season.
“Part of it is my follow-through,” Pedroia said. “I went and watched the video of my home run and it was my normal follow-through. That’s when I can create and generate my bat speed and backspin the ball, so it’s coming.”
The Laser Show isn’t just coming. It’s been going on for eight-plus years, with just a few breaks here and there.