FORT MYERS, Fla. — Business just picked up at JetBlue Park.
There already was a buzz surrounding Boston Red Sox spring training with so many players showing up early. Things kicked up another notch Saturday when the team’s heart and soul, Dustin Pedroia, arrived with an even bigger than usual chip on his shoulder.
“I’m ready to play,” Pedroia said amid a series of direct responses that spoke to his focus going into 2015. “I’m healthy and I’m excited to go do what I do.”
What Pedroia typically does, of course, is rake. Yet that wasn’t the case in 2014, in large part because the second baseman played through a hand injury that ultimately derailed his season in August. It was the second consecutive season Pedroia dealt with a hand issue.
Pedroia underwent surgery, recovered and embarked on a normal offseason. His regimen changed against his will last offseason because of a procedure he had following the Red Sox’s World Series win, but he was able to go full bore this winter while back home in Arizona. His routine involved lifting weights like a mad man.
“I don’t know that there’s ever a day that he’s not motivated,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But much like coming off of 2012, I think there’s added incentive from a disappointing finish last year to the beginning of spring training and the birth of a new year. He comes in late (Friday) night and he’s one of the first guys here in the clubhouse (Saturday morning). He’s raring and ready to go.”
Pedroia, who leads both vocally and by example, definitely will be an important player this season as the Red Sox look to rebound from a disappointing 2014. There’s no substitute for hard work, though, which the four-time All-Star already is preaching within the walls of the Red Sox’s clubhouse at JetBlue Park.
“Put the work in. Don’t go through the motions out here,” Pedroia said. “This is a time where you can get better, form that team bond. We’re going to be together every day for the next eight months, whatever it is. We’ve got to find a way to figure out what makes our team tick and go play from the start.
“If you start well, it continues and snowballs. We’ll make sure we do that.”
Pedroia avoided criticism last season amid Boston’s struggles because he remained exceptional defensively. It also was fairly obvious he was dealing with a physical ailment, though he didn’t acknowledge it until late in the year. The nine-year veteran is prepared to accept the heat when things don’t go well for the Red Sox, though. If you ask the 31-year-old, it simply comes with the territory of playing in Boston.
“I like it. I understand it. I get it that if you don’t perform well as a team and don’t win, there’s consequences. That’s how you should view everything, and that’s why I play,” Pedroia said. “I don’t mind if you guys get on me. It doesn’t really bother me. Over the years I don’t really have feelings anymore, so it doesn’t really matter.
“Nobody’s harder on your team or yourself than you. You’ve got to look in the mirror. I’m excited. This group’s going to form together and we’re going to play well.”
If the Red Sox play well, Pedroia likely will be a big reason why. If they don’t play well, the chip on Pedroia’s shoulder will just continue to grow until Boston eventually does turn it around.
Failure doesn’t sound like an option for No. 15 this season.
Thumbnail photo via Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press
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