Dustin Pedroia Primed to Add Red Sox Captain Honor to Resume One Day

Dustin Pedroia Primed to Add Red Sox Captain Honor to Resume One Day Jason Varitek will be a tough act to follow. But at some point — whether it’s the 2011 season or later — a Red Sox player is going to have to take over the captain duties from the veteran catcher.

Dustin Pedroia is as good a choice as anyone.

What the diminutive second baseman lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and heart. Since getting called up to the majors at the end of the 2006 season, Pedroia has won an AL Rookie of the Year Award, the AL MVP and a World Series ring. He’s a .307 career hitter and has earned the respect of every opponent from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (who once said he would pay to watch Pedroia play) to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (who appreciates the way Pedroia plays every game like it’s his last).

All that respect is the result of Pedroia’s fearless approach on the diamond. And that approach was cultivated at Arizona State when he played under Pat Murphy. The former Sun Devils coach explains:

"One time we’re playing Fullerton or something like that, and he’s a freshman, and he strikes out to lead off the game, which is something he rarely ever does, and I come over to Dustin and say, 'Hey, Dustin, how was that slider?' And he says back to me, 'Coach, that thing is so nasty.' Well, the rest of the team heard him say that, and they’re going to start thinking it’s nasty, and if Pedroia can’t hit that slider, then the rest of them can’t hit it either.

"I pulled him aside, and I said, 'Pedroia, for the rest of your life, if someone asks you about a pitch, you say, 'Ah, it’s all right, but I should have hit it.'

"But now you’ve got the other side of it, where you’ve created a monster, and for the next three years, every time, every time you asked Pedroia how the pitcher’s stuff was, he would say, 'This guy sucks … he’s terrible.' He’d just be screaming at the guy, 'This guy’s terrible … you’re terrible,' all 5-foot-6, 120 pounds of him."

That’s exactly the kind of attitude you want from your captain.

The Red Sox have had 19 captains, but only four since 1923: Jimmie Foxx (1940-42), Carl Yastrzemski (1969-83), Jim Rice (1985-1989) and Varitek (2005-present). Pedroia would be the ideal player to carry on the tradition.

Pedroia is a throwback. Give him a 1918 Red Sox uniform, put him alongside Everett Scott, and Pedroia wouldn’t have skipped a beat. He would have been talking smack to Ty Cobb after turning a double play.

Hand Pedroia a 1954 Red Sox uni, put him in the batter’s box against Early Wynn, and the scrappy infielder would have been staring down the Hall of Famer, telling him how far he’s going to hit his fastball, then backing up those words with a shot over the Monster.

Some of today’s major leaguers would not have fit in yesterday’s game. They have gotten too used to being pampered and coddled. Some might even say a few have gone soft.

Got a hangnail? Out a week.

Scrape a knee in the first inning? Time to hit the showers and call it a night.

Not Pedroia. The 26-year-old didn’t invent the term "dirt dog," nor was he the first to join the club, but he is the ultimate dirt dog. He lives by the code of the gamer and only knows one speed — all out, all the time. Combine that mindset with the mentality of somebody who enjoys losing as much as being stuck in a 40-mile traffic jam on the Mass Pike, and you have Dustin Pedrioa, future captain of the Red Sox.

Go ahead and doubt him.

It wouldn’t be the first time he’s proven contrarians wrong.

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Sunday, Nov. 29: What will the Red Sox’ starting lineup look like in 2010?

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