Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia will miss at least the first two months of next season after undergoing cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee Wednesday.
Pedroia is not expected to be ready for major league games for approximately seven months, according to the Red Sox. With the 2018 season starting on March 29, that means as many as 50 games.
Righthanded pitcher Steven Wright had the same procedure done this year, on May 8. Pedroia also chose the surgeon he had, Dr. Riley Williams III at the New York Hospital for Special Surgery.
“It’s a long and challenging rehab. But knowing Pedey, he’ll crush it,” Wright said. “The way I feel now, I’m glad I did it. It was the best decision.”
Wright didn’t know the details of Pedroia’s surgery. But in his case, Williams grafted cartilage from a cadaver into his knee. The surgery, still relatively new, has been successful for basketball and soccer players.
Wright was on crutches for five weeks and it was some time after that before he was able to really progress with his rehab work.
“It took some time to push it. But once I did it responded well,” he said. “I was able to transfer weight like I would when I pitch. It’s coming back to where I feel normal. To see me walk around now, you’d never know I had knee surgery.”
Pedroia injured his knee April 21 in a collision at second base with Baltimore’s Manny Machado. He returned to the lineup six days later, but dealt with the injury over the remainder of the season.
Pedroia went on the disabled list twice because of the injury, first on July 29 and again on Aug. 9 after playing one game. He did not return until Sept. 1.
That the injury hampered his play was obvious. Pedroia hit .242 with little power in September and was cautious running the bases. He went 2 for 16 in the Division Series against Houston.
When the Red Sox’ season ended Oct. 9, Pedroia acknowledged that his knee bothered him throughout the year, and that if he elected to have surgery, it would be a lengthy rehabilitation.
Pedroia, 34, has four years and $56 million remaining on his contract. A source familiar with his thinking said Pedroia believes the surgery will enable him to be productive over the long term.
Pedroia hit .293 with a .760 OPS overall this past season. He started 97 games at second base and six others as the designated hitter.
The Red Sox have a number of internal options at second base. Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, Deven Marrero, and Tzu-Wei Lin all have major league experience at the position.
Josh Rutledge also can play second base, but his roster status is more complicated. He is a Rule 5 draft pick, arbitration eligible, and coming off hip surgery.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Pedroia’s surgery does not affect the team’s offseason plans.
“We feel we have enough infield depth,” he said.
Eduardo Nunez, who will be a free agent after the World Series, filled in well for Pedroia after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants July 26. Nunez hit .321 with an .892 OPS in 38 games for the Sox, 26 of them at second base.
Nunez ended the season with a right knee injury that did not require surgery.
Nunez said several times how much he enjoyed his time in Boston. But as a free agent, he could command a starting job elsewhere.
This surgery is at least the seventh Pedroia has had in the last 11 years. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last Oct. 12 to repair a torn meniscus.
He has also had procedures on his left wrist and thumb (2014), left thumb (2013), left foot (2011 and ’10), and left wrist (2007).
“One benefit for me was all that time off allowed other parts of my body to heal,” said Wright, who dealt with a shoulder injury this past season. “For Pedey, the time off will help him. He’s been grinding through things for a lot of years now. This will help his body overall I bet.
“This could get him back to where he was. That’ll be the best thing for him and for us as a team.”
Wright said he expects to be ready to pitch at the start of spring training, or shortly after. With Eduardo Rodriguez expected to miss time recovering from knee surgery done earlier this month, Wright will be competing for a rotation spot.