ARLINGTON, Texas — The Red Sox started the season with Daniel Nava hitting leadoff. Then they tried Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore and even Brock Holt for one game.
Now the job belongs to Dustin Pedroia and it may stay that way for a long time.
Pedroia hit leadoff against the Texas Rangers on Friday night, the 13th consecutive game he has been in that spot. In the previous 12 games, he hit .288 with a .383 on-base percentage. The Sox won seven of those games with Pedroia scoring nine runs and driving in six.
No one except David Ortiz did much of anything Friday as Yu Darvish and the Rangers one-hit the Red Sox in an 8-0 rout. Pedroia was 0 for 4 with a strikeout.
When Shane Victorino came off the disabled list on April 24, manager John Farrell approached Pedroia with the idea, saying the best lineup for the Sox would start with Pedroia and Victorino on top.
“It’s been fine,” Pedroia said before Friday’s game. “It doesn’t matter where I hit.”
Pedroia didn’t always feel that way. Before this season, he hit leadoff only 87 times over eight seasons. He preferred to hit second or third and told former manager Terry Francona that. Pedroia felt he was more valuable to the team hitting in a spot where he could drive in runs.
But when Farrell asked Pedroia if he was open to the idea, the second baseman agreed.
“Dustin is all about what we are as a team and doing whatever he can to suit our needs. He’s the ultimate unselfish player,” Farrell said. “He was more than open to doing it.”
It helped that Pedroia was signed to a long-term contract extension last July. That made it easier for Farrell to broach the subject.
“He hasn’t mentioned reservations to me,” Farrell said. “It’s not necessarily an RBI position. The fact he has [security] there might be an openness and more willingness to be in that spot.”
Farrell doesn’t plan to change what has been working.
“He’s set the table for us,” the manager said. “Given the personnel we have, he’s the one true legitimate candidate among the group to not only get on base but to do some things to set the table for not only Vic behind him but David [Ortiz] and Mike [Napoli]. Where we are, he’s the guy for us.”
Pedroia hasn’t changed his approach to hitting based on his spot in the lineup.
“I hit the way I hit. I’ve always tried to see a lot of pitches anyway,” he said. “Obviously I’m trying to get on base no matter where I hit. You’re a little rushed sometimes but you figure it out.”
For the Sox, having Pedroia followed by Victorino, Ortiz, and Napoli has paid off. The team averaged 3.8 runs over the first 22 games of the season and 4.8 runs in the 12 games after that. Getting the Victorino off the disabled list was part of the reason. But it was more than that.
“It’s the consistency, knowing what the lineup is every day,” Victorino said. “Pedey gets on base, I try to move him over and then you have a Hall of Famer like David coming up with Napoli on deck. That’s hard on a pitcher.”
Said Pedroia: “We were coming in every day looking at the lineup to see where we were. Now we know our roles and what our approaches will be. That’s huge. We know what to expect.
“If I hit a double, Vic knows he’s not giving himself up but he’s trying to get me over. Everybody has an idea of what they’re supposed to do. Guys are starting to settle in.”
Pedroia may lose some RBIs. But he hopes to pick up some stolen bases. He hit third all but 12 games last season and generally refrained from running with Ortiz at the plate.
“I’ll get some chances now,” Pedroia said. “I feel like I can help with that.”
Pedroia is only 2 for 5 this season. One of the times he was caught, he said, was a botched hit and run. Two of the other times he was caught were simply good throws by the catcher.
“The process was right. I had a good jump, I ran on a good pitch. Guys made a good throw. The throw [Toronto’s Dioner Navarro] made last week to get me was maybe the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “That happens. But I’ll get some.”
The Red Sox, Orioles, and Angels are the only teams in the American League to use just five starters this season. Nine of the teams have already used at least seven.
“If you look at any team that’s sustaining success or has an opportunity to work deep in the season in a positive way, that rotation is something you point to,” Farrell said.
“It’s a testament to their abilities, particularly their work ethic and the program our medical staff has in place for them. We monitor their work closely.”
Through Wednesday, the Red Sox bullpen had allowed 9 of 57 inherited runners to score (15.8 percent). That was the best rate in the majors . . . Jake Peavy needed intravenous fluids after his start Wednesday but was feeling better on Friday. “Kind of a head cold more than anything,” he said . . . Former Red Sox coach bench coach Tim Bogar, now the bench coach of the Rangers, hung out in front of the Red Sox dugout before batting practice. Bogar left the Red Sox after the 2012 season and managed Double A for the Angels in 2013 before joining the Rangers . . . It was 85 degrees at first pitch. The previous high for a Red Sox game this season was 67 . . . Edward Mujica, pitching for the first time since May 2, retired the side in seventh inning . . . Napoli has reached base safely in 29 consecutive games.