For obvious reasons, the focus emerging from the Red Sox series against the Orioles fell squarely on the increasing tensions between the teams in the wake of a Matt Barnes fastball that sailed behind the head of Manny Machado on Sunday, two days after the Orioles star had spiked Dustin Pedroia in the back of the left knee at second base.
Yet in some ways, that drama obscured the most significant development of the weekend for the longer-term view of the Red Sox: the status of Pedroia.
Initially, the second baseman expressed optimism that he’d be able to return to the lineup on Sunday. That didn’t happen, and he’ll undergo an MRI to determine the specifics of his injury.
Of course, even if Pedroia is declared fit to remain on the field, the mere fact that the injury merits imaging raises something of a red flag. After all, Pedroia has a long history of playing through injury, but while he’s been capable of remaining in the lineup, injuries typically have shown up in the form of considerably diminished offensive production.
A year ago, for instance, Pedroia proved resurgent, delivering his best season in years. Through 136 games, he hit .329/.389/.463, and his production as the team’s leadoff hitter anchored the lineup while permitting Mookie Betts to slide down to the middle of the order. However, his performance took a severe hit following a mid-September left knee injury in Toronto (the same one that Machado spiked) that eventually required surgery. Over the season’s final 18 games, he hit just .238/.282/.350.
In 2015, he was off to a terrific start through late June, hitting .306/.367/.452 prior to suffering a hamstring injury when his foot slipped on the first base bag. He played in just 24 of the team’s final 89 games, hitting .250/.324/.410 in the process.
In 2014, he posted career lows in average (.278), OBP (.337), and slugging (.376) while playing through hand and wrist injuries incurred in the first week of the season.
There are examples in which Pedroia remained productive despite injuries. For instance, in 2013, he played the entire year with a torn ligament in his thumb, delivering Gold Glove defense while hitting for both average (.301) and posting a high OBP (.372) — albeit with an inability to drive the ball (.425 slugging) — for a championship team.
Still, most of the stretches of Pedroia’s worst production coincided with injuries. Red Sox officials have noted repeatedly through the years that when Pedroia is healthy, he is productive. That equation comes with an implicit corollary: When he’s unhealthy, it’s hard for him to perform at customary levels.
That pattern casts a cloud over the second baseman’s status going forward regardless of whether he avoids the disabled list. Add in the fact that any diminished agility from a knee injury would affect his game-changing defensive range, and it quickly becomes clear that the consequences of the series in Baltimore may last well beyond the weekend.