Healthy Dustin Pedroia Will Be One of Best Second Basemen in Baseball in 2011 The Red Sox will break camp with 25 players heading north to Boston. We begin a daily look at each position on the club, from the projected starters to their backups. Our latest installment examines second base.

Heart and soul
The Red Sox had a number of moments in 2010 in which they looked finished, and many more in which they looked like they had risen from the dead. It was this constant dance with death, so to speak, that never allowed anyone to completely write them off.

One moment which seemed to signal that the Sox were still very much alive came near the end of June in Colorado. In a game that saw Daisuke Matsuzaka struggle, both Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro commit errors and the Boston bullpen give up six runs in five innings, Dustin Pedroia put the team on his back.

His 5-for-5, three-homer effort led the Red Sox to a 13-11 win in 10 innings, their 25th victory in 35 games. They were two games out of first place and Pedroia, the team’s heart and soul, was rolling.

The next day dawned with great promise. Hours later, Pedroia was limping into the tunnel at AT&T Park in San Francisco. In many ways, the team’s chances in 2010 went down that dark tunnel with Pedroia.

The Sox were 6 1/2 games out in two weeks.

With that signature night at Coors Field, Pedroia had a .293 average and was on pace for career highs in home runs, RBIs and OPS. Additionally, he was playing second base at a superior level. Everything was clicking at the time.

The one saving grace to the fact that Pedroia’s season was essentially over the very next day was that he was only 26 at the time. His impact on the organization has been so striking since he first came up in 2006 that we sometimes forget that Pedroia is still a young player. Couple his youth with his incredible competitive streak and you have every assurance that the Red Sox will have one of the premier second basemen in the game once again in 2011.

Other options
The primary backup at second base when Pedroia went down last year was Jed Lowrie, and that will be the case again in 2011. Second base may not be Lowrie’s best position, but he now has 33 games at that spot as a major leaguer. Drew Sutton, a non-roster invitee who spent time with Cincinnati and Cleveland, is also in the mix as a potential reserve.

If all else fails
Prospects Nate Spears, who had 20 homers at Double-A Portland last year, and Oscar Tejeda, an athletic 21-year-old, are moving up the ladder, although neither is ready yet. Also, the Red Sox on Tuesday traded for Cubs prospect Tony Thomas, a second baseman who had 51 extra-base hits in 116 games last year at Double-A Tennessee. Brent Dlugach may get a look or two at second base this spring.

Realistically, if Pedroia would go down again, Lowrie and Marco Scutaro would hold down the middle infield positions themselves in one way or another, and one of these other names would probably serve as their backup.