By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s already next year for the Boston Red Sox, and Dustin Pedroia is doing what he can to ensure next year is nothing like this year.

The second baseman made the simple gesture Tuesday night in New York by stating he wants to play. It’s not complicated, but in the disaster that has been the 2012 season, it’s at least a positive takeaway heading into what is sure to be a long, cold winter.

Pedroia decided to play Tuesday night despite a broken index finger on his left hand. The 29-year-old said his decision wasn’t meant to send a message to the rest of his teammates. For the sake of the future of the Red Sox, though, it better.

“We got a lot of young guys on our team,” Pedroia said prior to Tuesday night’s game. “Sometimes you get nicked up, stuff like that. It’s part of the job. … But they know that I’m going to be out there, and they should be out there too, if it happens to them.”

Once the game began, Pedroia was more than just “out there” — he was a major player. He drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with an RBI double in the top of the first inning, later scoring on a sacrifice fly by Cody Ross. In the bottom of the inning, he prevented a run from scoring by quickly turning a double play to end the inning. In his second at-bat, he hustled all the way down on the line on a grounder to third base and was out by a half of a step, and he finished the night 2-for-5 with a walk.

Again, this is all simple stuff. We don’t need to erect a statue in Boston Common of Pedroia running out ground balls. But this team needs to improve in a lot of areas, with attitude being the most important. The road back to respectability begins with baby steps, and Pedroia took some of those on Tuesday.

He also helped the cause simply with what he said. One of the most famous quote from this tumultuous Red Sox season was uttered by Josh Beckett, who let the world know that he counts each and every one of his off days during a year. Now, thanks to Pedroia, perhaps those words won’t echo throughout the offseason.

“I like playing, man. It’s fun,” Pedroia said Tuesday. “Jeez, I get to compete two more games, and then I got to sit around for six months and wait until I get to do it again, so why not? I got nothing else to do.”

Again, it’s small, but it’s the type of attitude that needs to take over the Red Sox clubhouse, replacing the entitled, unprofessional culture that’s seemed to plague the team for the better part of two years. An attitude change, a new manager and the right free-agent additions will go a long way toward making this 90-plus season become a distant memory.

Truly, Pedroia’s efforts on Tuesday shouldn’t be out of the ordinary. The fact that a player actually playing through an injury makes headlines tells you just how bad things have gotten.

But the rah-rah, “firing up the troops” stuff only goes so far, particularly in a sport like baseball. Success over a 162-game season will have much more to do with players performing to their ability and avoiding injuries, coaching that knows how to turn around slumps, and front office decisions which recognize which players are fit for a city like Boston.

A second baseman playing through a busted finger in meaningless regular-season games won’t guarantee any success next season, but at least it is something. For a team with not much else, it’s a step in the right direction … and a reminder of who will be the leader when this team eventually turns things around.

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or follow him on Twitter@michaelFhurley.


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