In a wide-ranging interview with Dustin Pedroia, who is recovering from major knee surgery, the de facto Red Sox captain touched on many topics, including his grueling rehab, the perception people have of David Price, new manager Alex Cora, and how much the team is looking forward to breaking its pattern of losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Pedroia said his rehab has gone well, with no setbacks and no swelling. In addition to the cartilage restoration surgery on the inner part of his left knee, he also underwent microfracture surgery on his left fibula, the damage caused by playing through his knee injury. There’s no real target date on when he can return to the Red Sox, but estimates based on what’s left on his rehab schedule put it sometime in late April or early May.
“It’s been quite a process,” Pedroia said. “Even though there are times you feel great, those are the times you feel vulnerable to messing up. If I feel great and want to push more, they’re always there to remind me that you still need to stick to your program.”
There’s likely another six weeks or so of the running program, and then there’s a period of agility work. After that, barring any setbacks, Pedroia will start baseball activities.
“Right now I’m concentrating on the running and strength exercises to support the knee. I’m doing my legs, I’m going up in weight. My knee has responded well. I don’t have any swelling and that’s the most important thing with this injury. How are you going to be the next day? So far it’s been perfect. We play so many games, so the bounce-back is important and a sign I’ll be able to get back to normal from this surgery,”Pedroia said.
Pedroia was told at the time of the surgery that rehab would be a seven-month process, but he also said the timetable varied among doctors. Some gave him a 4-to-6-month timetable while others said 7-10 months.
“Nobody knows for sure,” Pedroia said. “The doctor said this surgery was good for me because I’m not a big guy. He said you’re going to crush the rehab because when it’s time to work you’re going to be able to do it and that’s the most important thing, to be able to do the rehab work.”
Pedroia acknowledged he was in constant pain last season.
“I dealt with a lot throughout the year, but you play the cards you’re dealt,” he said. “I had to play smart and take a deeper angle on balls, because if I cut sharp it was awful pain. Now nothing hurts. The strength in my legs is back.
“The hard part is that a lot of my attention and focus wasn’t on the game, it was on trying to get ready for the game and be able to play. I’ve never had to do that. Instead of spending three hours game-planning on studying how to beat the opposing pitcher and talking hitting, I was with training staff trying to figure out ways just to be out there. Looking back on that, that was tough.”
■ On Cora and whether he can take the Red Sox to the next level:
“Absolutely. Obviously everyone knows my relationship with him. He helped me become a major leaguer. The amount of help he gave me, I can’t thank him enough. It’s not just me. He did that with a ton of guys, and for our young guys to experience that? When we were sitting around at dinner, I would tell stories to the younger guys about him and Mike Lowell and [Jason Varitek] and what they did. I told them I didn’t necessarily ask questions, I just watched them.
“In my second year I didn’t steal any bases, and Alex said, ‘Hey, listen man, you can steal 20 bases in the big leagues,’ and I said to him you’re out of your mind. Yeah, I can get out of the gate, but I’m not Jacoby Ellsbury fast, and he said, ‘You don’t have to be. You’ve got to study relievers, study their times, study their keys. Study everything.’ So he sits me down in the video room, he teaches me how to use it and how to get better as a base runner, or if I’m in a hitting funk he would be able to recognize [that I’m] getting pull happy and you have to hit the ball the other way. Do the little things that make you what you are. If you start going the other way, they’ll stop pitching you away and come in to your strength.”
■ On the perception that the Red Sox were a fractured team in the clubhouse mostly due to Price’s incident with Dennis Eckersley:
“That’s the part of the perception that is tough for everybody to see. We kept hearing, ‘Oh, we don’t like each other,’ but no, we did like each other. We did have team dinners. We did get along. We were all around each other for so much. We all dealt with a lot. I think in that environment when you hear that every single day, it changes the mood of a lot of things. You come onto the field and you know that everyone from the outside thinks you hate each other. We were saying block all that out. It’s difficult to do because we’re human. But what was being said about the team and everybody, it wasn’t true. We all get along. We’re all on the same page. We’re trying to do the things work-wise and win the World Series. That’s how we tried to deal with it.
“I think a lot of guys learned from a lot of things. You have to learn from everything. If you have a bad at-bat, learn from what you did wrong and take it into your next at-bat. How am I not going to let this happen again?”
■ On the perception that Price isn’t a good guy:
“We all talk to David. I talked to him after that situation and I listened to what he had to say. I try to put myself in their shoes and feel what they’re feeling. I think in the end, he was trying to stick up for a teammate and that was it, right or wrong. Everybody has opinions and once something happens you say, ‘I should have done this, I should have done that.’ I came up in this environment. I was drafted by the Red Sox, so I was getting yelled at in Double A. So you kind of learn to do things a certain way.
“I’ll say this: [Price is] a great guy. He’s very caring. He loves his teammates and he wants to do whatever he can to help us win. People will see that. If they haven’t seen that yet, they’re going to. He’s obviously a huge part of our success going forward and we need him.”
■ On the Red Sox’ slow offseason:
“The market has been slow for everybody. It’s kind of weird and alarming. There’s a ton of great players out there. We know what we have right now and we have to be better. Offensively we have to play better.
“In 2016, everything clicked — the top of our lineup, middle, bottom. If one guy didn’t get it done, the next guy was stepping up. That’s what we need to do. Last year we had injuries that definitely affected our performance. Jackie [Bradley Jr.] had a knee [injury]. Hanley [Ramirez] dealt with the shoulder. Mitch [Moreland] broke his toe. My knee was jacked up. [Xander Bogaerts] was smoked in the hand. Mookie [Betts] dealt with hand issues. There are a ton of things that play into performance and that’s a part of it. It’s unfortunate that it happened to so many of our guys. In ’16 we called [Andrew Benintendi] up and he hurt his knee in Tampa. It makes it difficult to perform at a high level when you have five guys beat up. We did a great job finding a way. At the end of [last] year we couldn’t get hot at the right time.”
■ On John Farrell getting fired:
“I’m never surprised about anything anymore. I’ve been around long enough to know things happen like this. I appreciate all the stuff I learned from John and how he helped me become a better player. You try to take what they give you and be better.”
■ On whether the Red Sox lacked player leadership:
“Every player has a responsibility to the guy next to him. It just doesn’t fall on one guy. Everybody has to have the mind-set that he has to be about the team. It’s everybody. And it’s a grind. We play so many games. There are guys who when they wake up there are days where [they think] I don’t want to do anything today. And then you look at the guy next to you and he’s drenched in sweat. That’s your motivation. You do it for that guy.
“We heard that we don’t have any leadership or that this guy or that guy isn’t a natural leader. You block that out. You figure out what your job is and you make everyone better. That’s a leader.”
■ On why the Red Sox get picked apart after winning 93 games and the AL East title each of the last two years:
“I understand it. That’s what makes our environment special. I feel the same way as the fans. Ninety-three wins is great. When I was flying back to Arizona after the season I felt awful. You work hard and play through injuries, for what? We lost. That hurts. [The fans’] expectations are high and they should be. That’s how our team feels as well. We’re trying to win our last game. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
PASSIONATE ABOUT PATRIOTS
New England ties are tough to break
Baseball executives who grew up in New England certainly have fond memories of following the Patriots as youngsters. Giants general manager Bobby Evans is still a diehard fan. He spent part of his childhood in Framingham.
“John Hannah spoke at our church in Sudbury when I was 7. He had a huge impact on my faith, perspective of life and sports,” Evans recalled. He also recalls “meeting Russ Francis and Tony McGee at Shopper’s World in Framingham and meeting Tom Brady at Scottsdale Stadium after the Pats won their first Super Bowl and taking him into the [Giants] clubhouse to meet some of the guys. He and [Barry] Bonds sat and talked for an hour (both went to Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif.).
Then there’s Twins executive vice president Derek Falvey, who grew up in Lynn and went to Trinity College in Hartford.
“I was definitely a fan,” Falvey said. “Growing up in Lynn and playing football through high school I’d always loved the sport. My childhood and teenage years were mostly connected to those ’90s teams and I remember being crushed during that ’96 Super Bowl against the Packers. Obviously once I got to college and the current run began, it was a lot of fun to watch.
“I remember driving home from Trinity for that Patriots-Rams Super Bowl to watch with my family — notably my grandfather and mother who were more passionate. That was a special memory for me.”
Matt Klentak understandably decided not to discuss this topic. After all, he’s the GM of the Phillies and works in the City of Brotherly Love. He’s from Medfield and was a Patriots fan growing up.
Abington’s Mike Hazen, GM of the Diamondbacks, grew up a huge Stanley Morgan fan.
And of course we had to ask No. 1 Patriots fan Brian Butterfield, now of the Cubs, to assess Sunday’s game.
“The Eagles’ defensive front is the best in football. Pats offensive line has to have a great game, especially protecting Brady up the middle,” the Maine native said. “If he has enough room to step into his throws and maneuver just a little, he’ll kill ’em. I hope we no-huddle a lot, especially in the second half so we don’t let them substitute or catch their breath.”
Apropos of nothing
1. After Mookie Betts won his arbitration case and secured $10.5 million in his first year of eligibility, we seem to be looking at a $25 million-$30 million player in two years barring an extension.
2. Remember Rey Fuentes? He was the Red Sox’ first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2009 draft and there were certainly high hopes for him. He was traded to the Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Theo Epstein also gave up Anthony Rizzo in that trade. But while Fuentes saw some time with the Padres and then the Royals, he just never met the promise expected of him. The Diamondbacks last week designated him for assignment. Another interesting thing about Fuentes? He’s Carlos Beltran’s cousin.
3. Former Red Sox reliever John Trautwein has devoted his life to the “Will to Live Foundation” that he founded after his son Will, then 15 years old and a freshman at Northview High School in Johns Creek, Ga., committed suicide in 2010. Trautwein is a compelling speaker who began the foundation in his mind and made it a reality when giving his son’s eulogy. Trautwein decided then and there he was going to help kids from taking the same tragic path as Will, who was by all accounts a well-adjusted kid who was great at sports and music and had numerous friends. Trautwein will be speaking at Ashland High School and Ashland Middle School on March 26.
4. It was Larry Lucchino who gave the late Kevin Towers, one of the finest people in baseball, his first GM job with the Padres. Towers died last week at age 56 after a long battle with thyroid cancer.
5. Mike Hazen has revamped the Diamondbacks organization and hired a couple of ex-Red Sox. Daniel Bard is the team’s player mentor, Jonny Gomes was named hitting coach for the Diamondbacks’ rookie league affiliate, and Burke Badenhop will serve as a special assistant to Hazen.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Andrew Miller led the majors in 2017 by ending six innings with a bases-loaded strikeout, a feat that Dellin Betances has done 12 times over the last three seasons, the most in the majors.” . . . Also, “One-man Super Bowl match — In 1905, this pitcher went 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1908, he went 1-0 for the Boston Red Sox, pitching a shutout against New York in his only appearance. His name? King Brady.” . . . Happy birthday, Doug Fister (34), Gary Allenson (63), and Stan Papi (67).