Though Dustin Pedroia’s latest push to return to the big leagues endured a setback Monday when the Red Sox removed him from his rehab assignment in Double A Portland, the second baseman downplayed the significance of the delay and expressed optimism that he’s making progress in his comeback.
After he played six games in the big leagues this year, Pedroia landed back on the injured list after experiencing discomfort in his left knee during a April 17 game against the Yankees. After two weeks on the injured list, he started a rehab assignment with Portland on May 2, going 4 for 16 in five games.
“I felt great,” Pedroia said.
Pedroia was scheduled to play three straight games starting Saturday. Instead, he was scratched that day due to a recurrence of discomfort and some bruising on a specific spot on his left knee — the one that underwent a cartilage replacement in 2017 and required another season-ending procedure last summer — after diving in games while wearing a new knee brace.
“We’re changing braces, orthotics, a lot of different things to try to help me out. Just getting used to some things,” said Pedroia. “[It] just takes some time to get used to that [brace] and make sure that when I’m ready, it’s not a week and then I’m hurt again. I’m just trying to find a way.”
With a need to build his stamina — and with both the injury and rainouts impeding his ability to pass the test of playing three straight days — the Red Sox and Pedroia decided to pause his time in Portland so he could be evaluated and spend a few days working out with the team before considering the start of a new 20-day rehab assignment.
“Back in the day, a few years ago, he would have been like, ‘Forget about it. I’m going to get through this,’ ’’ said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He was smart about it.”
Pedroia, 35, took batting practice on the field with his Red Sox teammates prior to Tuesday’s game against the Rockies. As much as Pedroia’s season to date has progressed fitfully, he expressed optimism that he’s moving closer to steady time in the big leagues.
“I know I haven’t played many games, but I think I’ve surprised some people to [get] where I’m at. There’s going to be a time when I’m out there all the time. It’s coming,” said Pedroia. “Just got to stick with it.”
Righthanded reliever Scott Oberg was one of the first Rockies players on the field before the game. He had waited a long time to play catch at Fenway Park.
“A dream come true right there,” he said.
Oberg, 29, was born and raised in Tewksbury and played at the University of Connecticut before the Rockies took him in the 15th round of the 2012 draft.
He thought he would get a chance to play at Fenway when the Rockies came to Boston in 2016. But he was demoted to the minors four days before.
“That was a tough one,” said Oberg, who grew up a Red Sox fan with particular admiration of Pedro Martinez and Mike Timlin. “But I’ll have my parents, brother and some friends here for this series.”
Oberg has since become one of the best relievers in the National League. He came into Tuesday’s game with a 2.38 earned-run average and 1.02 WHIP the last two seasons.
Since coming off the injured list last June 27, Oberg has a 1.86 ERA. That’s eighth among NL relievers with at least 25 appearances.
Oberg played at UConn with Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed and Astros right fielder George Springer.
For a New England program, that’s impressive.
“It’s a testament to the coaches there,” said Oberg, who now lives in New Jersey with his wife Diana and their daughter Charlotte. “It was great to see Matt and talk to him before the game. He’s been pitching great this season.”
Cora courted Arenado
Superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado decided to pass on big-league free agency when he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies this spring, but he did have prior experience getting recruited by multiple teams — with Red Sox manager Alex Cora playing a key role.
In 2017, when Cora was GM of Team Puerto Rico, he tried to convince Arenado to play for his team. He offered to have Javier Baez play the outfield so that Arenado could play third, Carlos Correa could play short, and Francisco Lindor could play second.
Arenado, whose mother is Puerto Rican, was tempted by what he described as a compelling recruiting pitch, but the California native ultimately decided to play for Team USA.
“It was a really tough phone call to let him know I was going to go with USA but that’s where my heart was,” said Arenado.
Team USA beat Team Puerto Rico in the WBC championship game, 8-0.
“I know I made the right decision,” said Arenado. “I have no regrets about it, then also winning the championship kind of put the stamp on it, too.”
With the Rockies visiting Fenway for the first time since 2016, Cora made clear that his admiration for Arenado is undiminished.
“He’s amazing,” said Cora. “He plays hard. He runs the bases. Defensively . . . he is great. Hopefully we don’t hit too many to him the next two days. It will be fun to watch.”
David Price is scheduled to throw a bullpen session, likely on Wednesday. Based on how he feels after that session, the Red Sox expect that either he’ll start on Saturday against the Astros at Fenway or next week in Toronto . . . Eduardo Rodriguez will start against the Rockies on Wednesday . . . NESN analyst Jerry Remy tweeted that he received a “good clean scan and another good day of treatment” on Monday. He is part of a three-man NESN booth with Dave O’Brien and Dennis Eckersley this week . . . Though Christian Vazquez carried a robust .382/.436/.785 against lefties, he was out of the lineup against Rockies southpaw Kyle Freeland. Cora wanted Sandy Leon behind the plate for Chris Sale, and while he considered Vazquez as a designated hitter, he likewise wanted to keep Eduardo Nunez (DH) and Steve Pearce (first base) in the lineup against lefties. “It was very tricky,” Cora said of his decision. “Today was one of those that I was debating between breakfast and changing diapers about how we’re going to go” . . . The Giants called up righthander Shaun Anderson. The 24-year-old, a 2016 third-round pick of the Red Sox, was dealt to San Francisco as part of the package that netted Nunez in 2017. Anderson is the first Red Sox player taken in the 2016 draft to reach the big leagues.