FORT MYERS, Fla. — The opponent is Boston College and the date will be Feb. 26, far from a mid-August meeting with the New York Yankees. But seeing "Pedroia — 4" on the lineup card in the Red Sox clubhouse has significant meaning.
Aside from two games in August of last year in which he tried to come back from a broken left foot, Dustin Pedroia has been out of game action since fouling a ball off the foot in San Francisco on June 25. It was perhaps the biggest injury in a season full of them for Boston.
On Saturday afternoon against the Eagles, he will be back in the batter's box, having shown no ill effects of the injury since arriving in camp earlier this month.
"The first thing that comes to mind is there's no hesitation," said bench coach DeMarlo Hale. "I don't think the injury is in his head?I think we have to be cautious with him as well. Pedey kind of gets full-bore. I think he understands that. He's still talking the same so that's a good thing."
Indeed, Pedroia had his mouth moving bright and early Friday, joking with reporters that the Red Sox are "going to kick BC's ass."
Still, he knows there's a long haul ahead of him, and that avoiding injuries is the key.
"That's any team. Your team has to be healthy to perform well," Pedroia said.
The 2008 American League Most Valuable Player is central in the club's return to health. He also knows how important these first couple of weeks in camp are. With established stars mingling with unproven youngsters, the organization is able to come together a bit and form a bond that can help out down the road. It's the kind of bond that can bear fruit in years like 2010, when imports were needed early and often.
"I remember my first couple of big league camps, just learning from everybody, just watching," he said. "It helps when a guy says a line here and there to help you out, because we want everybody to be good. At some point they're all going to help us. They're all going to help us win."
Hale said that Pedroia has been very open about how his foot feels. Manager Terry Francona has insisted on more open lines of communication with the many players coming back from injury, and his second baseman has led the charge. It is all part of an increased leadership role assumed by the three-time All-Star.
"Just his actions, the way he plays the game," Hale said of Pedroia's advanced leadership skills. "When you speak to him and his teammates it's about winning. There are different ways that you can go about leadership. Jason Varitek's got a different style of leadership. It's good to have those multi-personalities and leaders on your team. Everybody may not take one way. Pedroia, his actions keep people moving, playing the game the right way."
Starting Saturday, those actions will once again be on the field.