Dustin Pedroia’s Rookie Struggles Offer Hope for Red Sox Prospects’ Slow Starts

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Dustin Pedroia's Rookie Struggles Offer Hope for Red Sox Prospects' Slow Starts Entering Wednesday night's matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays, four of the Red Sox' top position prospects — Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick, Lars Anderson and Yamaico Navarro — had combined to produce a .197 average (40-for-203) at the major league level.

As the Red Sox begin to flood their lineup with such names while essentially playing out the string in 2010, some of the numbers for the youngsters may improve. But some may not.

That doesn't mean the time in the big league clubhouse is not invaluable.

"Spring training and September you need to be careful," manager Terry Francona said of the evaluation process based solely on statistics. "In a short sample size, a couple of lineouts, the batting average is going to be pretty skewed. But you learn a lot about guys, even about how they handle adversity.

"There's a lot to find out about guys," Francona added. "That's what we're always trying to do."

That process took place in earnest back late in 2006, when a short second baseman who appeared to swing from his heels came into the fold and was tested in a big way.

Dustin Pedroia made his major league debut Aug. 22 against the Angels and had a hit in his second at-bat. After that, they were few and far between.

The then-23-year-old followed up that first hit by going 5-for-46 (.109) over his next 17 games and struggled to get his mark up to .191 by the time the season came to an end.

When Pedroia opened the 2007 season in similar fashion (he was batting .180 with no home runs and just three doubles after 22 games), Francona began to wonder.

"All I heard was, 'This kid's so good, this kid's so good.' All he did was make outs," Francona said.

It was a night in Minnesota on May 5 of that year when Pedroia had two hits off Twins ace Johan Santana that pushed him over .200 and finally got him going. Five months later, he was the American League Rookie of the Year.

"And then what everybody in the organization said was true [turned out to be true]," Francona said. "He's a tremendous player. They pretty much nailed it with him. They said he'd probably start slow but would end up being a great player. That's about what he was."

Kalish, Reddick, Anderson and Navarro will have those moments when Francona and others wonder, perhaps just to themselves, whether the book on them is correct, whether they really have what it takes to be a regular on a major league roster. How the rookies eventually respond to such adversity will mean much more than an unsightly batting average. 

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