Dustin Pedroia on comeback: 'I know what I need to do'

Rob Bradford
November 13, 2019 - 8:02 am

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Dustin Pedroia started getting the text messages when he woke up Tuesday morning. It was a wave of congratulations.

The impetus for the outpouring was the news passed along by Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom the day before at the GM Meetings that there was "every indication" that Pedroia could be counted on to play in 2020. This was a test for Pedroia's new state of mind.

"I think the only thing I’ve learned in playing in this environment for a long time is that you have to, it’s hard, but you have to take emotion out of it. I’m an emotional player and I’m an emotional guy," he said from his home Tuesday while appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast. "But when you hear that … I’m getting texts from everybody. Everybody is excited and what not. But I’m like, ‘We’ll see. There’s a long way to go.’"

Is that a tact he would have taken a year ago?

"Probably not," Pedroia admitted. "I would have probably talked trash back to them. I know what I need to do. We’ll see."

At least there is a "We'll see" because a few months ago that didn't seem like a possibility. When Pedroia put a wrap on his 2019 season in late May it certainly seemed as though the left knee injury which had plagued him for the previous two-plus years had pushed the second baseman to his tipping point.

He had come back to play in just nine games, forced to watch the remainder of the season's final four months from his home in Arizona. The idea of giving baseball another try didn't seem realistic.

But here he is, at least contemplating contributing to the Red Sox for the coming season.

"I was in the prime of my career and then one play, man," said Pedroia, referencing Manny Machado's 2017 slide into the second baseman's knee. "I end up fighting through that year. There have been a lot of lows to trying back to who I am.

"I didn’t think I would feel like I do now. When I came home, it wasn’t good. My kids’ school was right around the corner and they wanted me to walk to school one day and I’m like, ‘Nope, I’m not walking.’"

He added, "I was in rough shape. I wasn’t able to do much. If played with the kids outside I would be icing the rest of the night. It was not good."

Pedroia makes it very clear that he has a long way to go. His tone has changed since the last time he tried this. A tidal wave of setbacks will do that.

But in the last year, he has learned both about what was wrong with his approach and his mindset.

"The baseball schedule is different than the human body schedule," Pedroia explained. "Did we do anything wrong? I think we looked at the baseball season with time-frames … the human body doesn’t have any time-frames. It doesn’t know how old you are. It doesn’t know any of that. ... You put in so much work and you follow everything you’re told to do and for it to not happen, dude, you’re defeated."

Pedroia has found himself with some hope these days.

After a late-August checkup with his surgeon in Colorado, he had a somewhat surprisingly promising prognosis. "The doctor was very pleased, he said this joint will last a while," Pedroia said. "Obviously, I’m going to need to get a knee replacement and all that, but he was very surprised with how everything’s responded. That set off in my mind... the ultimate goal is to finish what I started. We’ll see."

The main issue for Pedroia now is getting the strength back in his quad and calf muscles to support his surgically-repaired knee. The left quad is still just 60 percent the strength of his right one, but that is 50 percent where it had been following his most recent surgery. 

In the last three weeks, he has seen dramatic improvement, opening the door for a running program within a month. For now, there are other exercises -- skipping, box jumps, etc. -- that hasn't led to any pain or swelling.

There are still no spring training plans, and the approach is still tailored to prioritizing quality of life rather than playing major league baseball. But the path has certainly been altered from where he thought it was going just a few months ago.

"I spent two years saying I was going to come back and kick everybody’s ass and then I played nine games," Pedroia noted. "It is what it is. … You have to find a way to deal with it the best way you can. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to come back and be better than ever. Could I? Maybe. I don’t put it past anybody. It’s one step at a time. I’m not looking at the big picture

"Everyone gets excited but I’ve been through this for two years and I know I have a lot of work to do strength wise. … I have to build a lot back up. If I do that, yes I will be able to play baseball. The problem is that when you go through three years without strengthening your quad when you’ve had major knee surgeries it’s hard to get back. But it’s coming back."

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.