Why Dustin Pedroia is the key cog of Red Sox defense

Mike Petraglia
February 23, 2014 - 3:26 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia has seen a lot in his eight years with the Red Sox. Two World Series titles, a Rookie of the Year honor in 2007, an MVP the next season, a collapse in 2011, a 69-win season in 2012 and a wondrous turnaround last year. Through it all he's had to get accustomed to a new dance partner at shortstop almost every year. Nine regular shortstops have formed the double play combination since Pedroia became the every day second baseman in 2007, starting with Julio Lugo. With Stephen Drew out - for now - and Xander Bogaerts in to start spring training, it's just another day in the life of the infielder. "Well, regardless of the changes, Dustin's role has remained the same," John Farrell said. "He has been the leader of our team up the middle, whether it's in term of positioning, whether it's our cutoffs and relays, he's the pivotal guy in all of that. These are players, with Jackie and Xander, they understand the position, they've been good defenders to this point and time in their career. Seeing it on a regular basis right now, that's the only difference. We know that Jackie is an above-average defender in center fielder." Then Farrell conceded, without prompting, "The one thing that Dustin might talk about is trying to get some continuity long-term with a double play partner." "I think he's dealt with it as best we could have ever hoped. He's had good players play alongside of him. But let's face it, the more repetition you get with a partner up the middle, you're going to have a better read in the nuances and being able to anticipate things at a greater rate. We're looking forward to establish that continuity going forward." Pedroia didn't want to focus on the changes but rather the need to anchor the middle defense, like a middle linebacker in football. He's the one calling the signals and it's his job to get everyone on the same page, no matter who his double play partner might be. "It's very important, playing the middle of the diamond there's a lot of action but those guys, they work their butts off," Pedroia said. "I'm sure if they're doing something wrong, Butter will talk to Bogey. Arnie does a great job with the outfield. Everybody's going to be prepared. "We take a ton of ground balls [in the season] but team defense, we spend most of our days out there doing stuff like that, communicating on our plays and what we're trying to do." Pedroia knows that he's working with a special talent in the 21-year-old Bogaerts. "He's got real special skills and you see them on the field all the time. He works at it, too. He doesn't just go out there and think it's going to happen naturally." Now is a time for Pedroia and Bogaerts to work on the fundamentals, fundamentals that Pedroia says will lead to bigger things this year if everyone works at it. "There's not many (that repeat)," Pedroia said. "We're going to try to focus on the small things and hopefully working on the small things leads to a bigger and better team in the long run. It wasn't just our focus last year. We wanted to keep that focus as an organization, not just our team, the minor leagues, everything. You have to focus on that day. Today we had team bunt defense. We have to make sure we take care of little things. When the game comes, that's when team defense [shows]. You play together. Focusing on that day's challenge is what we try to do every day. "It's a big part of our philosophy. You have to try to prevent them from scoring and help out your pitching staff. It's less pitches they have to throw, they can go deeper in games. It's a number of things. We're out there working and trying to catch the ball." "I think it's combination," added Farrell. "If you spend the time teaching and communicating in an area where guys might have a different read on certain things, through that teaching, they're going to gain it. But there are some that come to us that come to us with a greater level of instinct."