By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Thursday marked a significant moment in the comeback attempt of Dustin Pedroia.READ MORE: Gov. Charlie Baker: Decision Not To Run For Third Term Was 'Complicated And Difficult'
The Red Sox’ veteran second baseman started at second base and batted leadoff against the Twins, getting his first game action of 2019 spring training. Pedroia underwent knee surgery — a cartilage restoration procedure — following the 2017 season, and though he was expected to have been able to recover and play for most of the 2018 season, he played just three games in May before ultimately getting shut down for the year. The hope this year is that he can play regularly and contribute to the Red Sox all year long.
And as far as first steps go, Thursday’s was a good one for Pedroia. The 35-year-old fielded a ground ball and threw to first for the final out of the top of the first inning.
He then stepped up to the plate and swung for the fences on the first pitch he saw. He missed that pitch, but he ended the at-bat by sending a 2-1 offering from Kohl Stewart to the hole on the left side of the infield. Shortstop Ronald Torreyes made a diving attempt to make a stab, but he was unable to corral the two-hopper.
Pedroia advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and then he came around to score easily on a Rafael Devers double, giving the Red Sox an early 1-0 lead.
Pedroia didn’t get any action in the top of the second, and as planned, he was replaced in the third inning by Tzu-Wei Lin.READ MORE: DA: Braintree Police Justified In Shooting Death Of Man Who Killed K-9, Wounded Officers
Prior to the game, manager Alex Cora said that Pedroia had been in full uniform since about 7 a.m., which may not have been hyperbole. It showed how even a 13-year veteran can get giddy at the opportunity to step onto a big league diamond.
“I was pretty excited. It’s a pretty big step for me,” Pedroia told ESPN’s Buster Olney in a midgame interview during the broadcast. “Felt great. Just being out there, mentally you’re trying to check all the boxes, where to be, where to position yourself. … It was great.”
One noticeable change from Pedroia came in the field, where he was not hopping into the air during every pitch. That move has become a bit of a signature for Pedroia, as it forces him to be on the balls of his feet at the point of every potential moment of contact, yet it’s one of the things that Pedroia admitted he had to change about his game — along with wearing a knee brace and molded spikes.
“I just gotta be smart. That’s it,” Pedroia told Olney. “I can’t do the stuff that I’ve done. I wasn’t playing reckless, but I could, because I was a lighter guy and healthy. But the type of injury I have, you gotta be smart and find ways to trick your knee that you’re OK.”
Pedroia also admitted that the first pitch from Stewart was “blown by me,” and he said he appreciates the support from the fans, who gave him an ovation as he stepped to the plate at JetBlue Park.
“They’re great. I mean, I appreciate it so much,” Pedroia told Olney. “I think they all understand what I’ve been going through, what I’m trying to come back from. I just appreciate it so much the way that they’re pushing me every single day to get back and be with the guys.”MORE NEWS: Kyle Dugger Missed Wednesday's Patriots Practice As Team Awaits More Info On Potential COVID Situation
The challenge for Pedroia now will be the recovery process, followed by stretching out his outings, followed by repeating it on a daily basis. There’s still a ways to go, but before any of that can happen, Pedroia needed to take his first step. On Thursday, he accomplished that.