Tomase: Steven Wright knows career will never be same, which bodes poorly for Pedroia

John Tomase
February 12, 2019 - 11:17 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Steven Wright answered questions about Steven Wright on Tuesday, but the fatalists among us swore he was discussing Dustin Pedroia.

The two underwent the same cutting-edge cartilage restoration procedure prior to last season and both eventually broke down.

Wright at least excelled during his 20 appearances, going 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 53.2 innings before his knee refused to comply. Pedroia, by contrast, came back too soon and lasted only three games. The former MVP played the role of cheerleader as the Red Sox won their third World Series since he arrived.

On Tuesday, Wright discussed the challenges of staying healthy in 2019, and his words should send a shiver up the spine of anyone hoping for a full season out of Pedroia.

"I mean, you hear guys all the time having knee injuries, ACLs, it's 10-12 months," Wright said. "They kind of told me, but I didn't really want to believe it, that it's going to be probably for the rest of my career."

Uh-oh.

If it's for the rest of Wright's career, it's for the rest of Pedroia's, too. That's a problem. But it gets worse.

"There were times last year I thought I was over the hump and then it kind of came and bit me in the butt a little bit," Wright said. "I'm at the point where I think we have a better understanding. I think last year going into it, nobody's ever had this surgery. For us, we had me and Pedey. A lot of it is trial and error.

"I think this year we have a little bit of a better understanding of what we can and can't do, of what we should and shouldn't do, and try to minimize risk vs. reward as far as when it comes to working out and what I've got to do to get ready. I don't have to run. As much as I like to do it, there's ways to get around it, just do it when I need to, which is covering first, backing up bases. If we can keep that stuff where the high impact is at a minimum, then I feel like it will be a better way to stay healthy."

"High impact" describes second base, especially the way Pedroia plays it. Unlike Wright, who at least knows as he releases each pitch where he'll land and how, Pedroia must be ready to dart in any direction at contact. Diving left, diving right, leaping for a ball hit directly over his head, starting a double play, turning a double play, covering the bag, changing direction to tag a runner on a slow roller, the permutations are endless.

Will he be able to say, "I don't have to run?" Of course not. And we haven't even talked about what happens when he's on base. It's enough to make you wonder if Dave Dombrowski and Co. have left themselves thin at second base.

The Red Sox enter camp with the same replacements for Pedroia as a year ago: super-sub Brock Holt, gritty gamer Eduardo Nunez, and 4-A player Tzu-Wei Lin. Eventually, they decided they needed Gold Glover Ian Kinsler. Perhaps they'll make a similar call this year.

Wright will be asked to do far less than Pedroia from a physical standpoint, and even he recognizes it could quickly become too much.

"We've got a pretty good game plan going forward as far as the workload," he said. "I think it's going to be a day-by-day thing. I don't think I'm ever going to feel 100 percent like I did before I hurt my knee, but trying to get as close to that as we can and staying consistent with it."

In the end, the 34-year-old Wright sounded words of caution that depressingly apply to the 35-year-old Pedroia.

"We're getting old," Wright said, speaking only of himself, even if the words applied to his teammate. "It's a game where it's tough on your body, but then when you've got a flat tire going out there trying to pitch, it makes it a little bit tougher.

"It's trying to change the mentality of how you approach things, both from a physical standpoint in the weight room, training, conditioning, and that's what's tough. The days you feel good, you've still got to be aware that just because it feels good now doesn't mean it's going to feel good in six or seven months. That has just been a lot of trial and error. We learned a lot last year, not only from myself, but from Pedroia and his challenges that he's had. I'm looking forward to seeing him, seeing how he's doing right now, and just bouncing things off of each other and just trying to figure out what the process is going to be for the rest of our careers."

Wright went on to say he hopes that flat tire upgrades to a spare tire this year. That's fine for a knuckleballer, but let's be real -- Pedroia can't be Pedroia without steel-belted radials.

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