Good news for Pedroia is what Red Sox needed
Amid flurry of injuries and shuffling personnel, club unable to gain traction
CHICAGO -- The scout could hardly believe his eyes.
"When,'' he asked, "have you seen a Red Sox lineup like this?''
It certainly wasn't Game 6 of the World Series, that's for sure.
And that was before the latest casualty.
Hustling from first base after a ball skipped away from White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers in the ninth inning, Mike Napoli dislocated his left ring finger diving into second base. X-rays were negative, the finger was reset -- ouch! -- and he could be back soon.
But true to the recent trend, that injury has already hurt. Mike Carp, who took over for Napoli at first base, couldn't handle a one-hop throw from shortstop Xander Bogaerts for the last out in the ninth. Alexei Ramirez raced around from second base, giving the upstart White Sox a 2-1 victory.
For the Red Sox, the beat goes on. This Tuesday night loss dropped them to 5-9 after an equally unimpressive Spring Training.
"We can't catch a break, physically and in terms of calls,'' said Jake Peavy, the former White Sox pitcher who picked up a World Series ring after being traded to Boston at the Trade Deadline last summer.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected from Sunday's game in New York after feeling his team got the short end of replay decisions on Saturday and Sunday, and Tuesday night felt that Chris Capuano should have struck out Marcus Semien for the final out before the grounder to Bogaerts. First-base umpire Cory Blaser gave Semien the benefit of the doubt on a two-strike check swing, and because that's not subject to replay, all the Red Sox could do was complain.
Peavy said they were robbed. But rather than the calls, the troublesome issue for Boston is the attrition and constant shuffling of personnel.
When Peavy took the mound to face Adam Dunn and the other former teammates with the White Sox, with the thermometer at an alleged 40 degrees, he was backed by a Boston lineup that included only four players who helped the Red Sox beat the Cardinals last October. Along with A.J. Pierzynski, it featured Grady Sizemore, Ryan Roberts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jonathan Herrera.
This has been a time of White House visits and other celebrations for the Red Sox, but underneath the surface they've been paddling hard to try to get the 2014 season going in the right direction. For all the laughs off the field, much of their time on it has been like a bad hangover. That beats a nightmare, which was what the Red Sox were facing when Dustin Pedroia took himself out of the lineup over the weekend, admitting that he'd been trying to play through an increasingly sore wrist since the Brewers' Carlos Gomez took him out on a slide in the fourth game of the season.
There was fear that Pedroia may have had a broken left wrist. But an examination in Boston on Monday showed no major damage. He received a cortisone injection and could be back in the lineup Wednesday.
That was not the only good news for the Red Sox on Tuesday. Closer Koji Uehara continued to progress from his sore shoulder. He threw on flat ground in the afternoon and is scheduled to throw off the mound Wednesday. He could be available in his closer's role this weekend, when the Red Sox return to Fenway Park to play Baltimore.
Straight-faced as always, Farrell downplayed his sense of relief.
"On the heels of some other guys put on the DL, it's good to know they're going to be returning to us soon,'' he said.
Is that all?
While Ortiz is the powerful spokesman for his team, the guy who carried the Red Sox on his strong shoulders last October, Pedroia is the player they can least afford to lose. He's a two-way force and a guy who never gives away an out, setting a tone for his team by the way he controls the strike zone.
Pedroia admits that the wrist injury scared him. He played through a torn ligament in his left thumb last season, which required surgery and rehab over the winter.
"When I got taken out, I just landed kind of awkwardly,'' Pedroia said. "I didn't think anything of it. I just thought it was general soreness from my rehab, and the more I swung, it just kept feeling weaker, kind of aching, things like that.''
Pedroia felt so good on Tuesday that he tried to talk his way into the lineup, but said that short of "strangling John'' it wasn't going to happen. He did enter the game in the ninth, pinch-running for Napoli and then playing second base.
The Red Sox also hope to be a few days away from adding Shane Victorino, who opened the season on the disabled list with a hamstring issue. Like Napoli and Jonny Gomes, he was an important addition last season and takes on even more significance with Jacoby Ellsbury joining the Yankees.
Their lineup is stuck in second gear, averaging only 3.4 runs per game. The cold weather didn't help hitters on Tuesday, but give Peavy and White Sox rookie Erik Johnson credit. Both had great stuff, and used it well.
After Jose Abreu made Peavy work in a 12-pitch at-bat, Dunn pulled a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence in the second inning. Peavy felt that was no way for an old friend to treat him.
"I broke his bat on that pitch,'' Peavy said. "Dunner always said that this ballpark plays 'big to fair.' Well, I'm gonna have some fun and say that you don't hit home runs with broken bats in a park that is 'big to fair.' "
That's how it has been going for the champs.
"What have we played, 13 games?'' Peavy asked.
Fourteen, he was told.
"Well, we've got 148 left,'' Peavy said. "I guarantee you that nobody in here is pushing the panic button. We know that we're going to get this thing going right. We're just stuck right now. Nothing's going our way. That's the way this game is sometimes. But we're not down. We're not panicking. I guarantee you that.''
Pedroia was in the game when it ended on Tuesday. That's reason enough for optimism.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.