BOSTON (CBS) — Barring any last-second setbacks, Dustin Pedroia will make his long-awaited return to the diamond on Thursday. Pedroia will play second for the Red Sox when they continue their exhibition season against the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.

Pedroia has played in just 108 games over the last two seasons due to left knee issues. After undergoing knee surgery in October 2017, he missed all but three games of Boston’s 2018 championship season, so he’s pretty eager to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank at the age of 35.

That’ll start Thursday, but Boston manager Alex Cora is tempering expectations for his second baseman.

“For tomorrow, [I’m looking] for him to go through the progression and then the next day feel better, and little by little, keep adding innings,” Cora said Wednesday. “I hate to set a schedule for him, but if everything goes well tomorrow and he reacts OK the upcoming days, he’ll play Saturday and we’ll treat him like a regular guy.”

Pedroia felt good following a rigorous workout on Monday, paving the way for Thursday’s debut. The Red Sox are hoping to get 120+ games out of the four-time All Star this season, with veterans Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt filling out the depth chart if there’s another bump in the road. Pedroia has played in 120 or more games just once over the last four seasons, when he slashed .318/.376/.449 over 154 games in 2016.

Cora said it will be a slow-build with Pedroia the rest of the spring, and he wouldn’t discuss if Pedroia playing on Opening Day on March 28 in Seattle is a realistic option at the moment.

“He’s getting one at-bat tomorrow and we’ll start building up. He doesn’t need to play nine [innings] here.” Cora said of Boston’s spring slate. “If he is ready to go [for Opening Day], he’s ready to go.”

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