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Eduardo Nunez makes his spring debut for Red Sox

barry chin/globe staff file

Eduardo Nunez has gradually built up his spring training workouts since re-signing with the Red Sox on Feb. 18.

By Globe Staff 

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Eduardo Nunez played four innings at second base against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday and was 0 for 2 at the plate.

Then came his real workout. Under the direction of head strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose, Nunez pulled a sled loaded with weights back and forth. That was followed by more conditioning work.

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“It was a good day,” Nunez said.

Nunez signed with the Sox on Feb. 18 but Thursday was his first Grapefruit League game. The Sox waited nearly three weeks to make sure his right knee was fully stable.

“That was the plan all throughout, just take care of him and build him up,” manager Alex Cora said.

Nunez strained his posterior cruciate ligament last season and it wasn’t until late January that he started baseball-specific workouts. He has been catching up since.

The plan is for Nunez to play again Saturday and Sunday. He’ll also take batting practice off a pitching machine to get accustomed to higher velocity.

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“That’s how he gets his timing down. If that’s his program and that’s what works for him, I’m not against it,” Cora said.

Nunez, 30, has played eight seasons in the majors and knows how many at-bats and innings he needs to be ready for Opening Day. The Sox have 19 days left in camp, more than enough time for him.

“I think so, yes,” Nunez said. “If everything is going right in my knee and it’s good to go, I think 30 at-bats would be enough.”

With Dustin Pedroia not expected to play until May at the earliest, Nunez is a vital player for the Sox.

“We know the situation we’re in,” Cora said.

Nunez gave the Sox a considerable lift last season. He had an .892 OPS in 38 games and started 25 games at second base.

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“We’re excited. We can’t wait until we start, Opening Day,” Nunez said. “We know how special J.D. Martinez is and how he can produce.”

For as long as Pedroia is out, Nunez is confident he can fill in. “That’s the plan,” he said. “Hopefully everything goes well.”

Sale’s set

Chris Sale is scheduled to make his first start on Friday against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter. The lefthander has been building up gradually with several live batting practice sessions and then a minor league game.

The goal for Friday is 50 pitches. David Price starts on Saturday against Minnesota at Hammond Stadium with roughly the same agenda.

Drew Pomeranz is getting over forearm soreness. He’s scheduled to play long toss on Friday and work up to a bullpen session from there.

Eduardo Rodriguez is a bit ahead of Steven Wright as they each recover from knee surgery.

“[Rodriguez] will be on the mound facing hitters sooner rather than later,” Cora said.

The Sox are spending extra time with Rodriguez on fielding his position, something that was an issue last year because of his knee.

Wright is still overcoming some pain in his knee. He’s also wrestling with control of his knuckleball.

“I only had [five] games last season. It’s taking some time to get a feel back,” Wright said. “But it’s getting better.”

Reliever Tyler Thornburg, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is throwing every other day in the bullpen and moving closer to facing hitters. Like Rodriguez and Wright, he’ll be on the disabled list when the season starts.

Lengthy process

It was never realistic to think Pedroia would be ready for Opening Day given the extensive knee surgery he underwent on Oct. 25. Cora said it was unlikely he would even be ready for a minor league game before camp ends on March 27.

Pedroia is taking batting practice on the field every other day and doing limited work defensively. He could start an on-field running program next week.

“That’s a good sign for him,” Cora said. “He’s here at 5 in the morning doing his work and then he has to go through the whole therapy. There’s a lot in Pedey’s day.”

Once Pedroia is ready to play, that process will be methodical, much like spring training. It will take time for him to build up to playing two or three games in a row.

Long haul

After Friday’s game in Jupiter, 12 of the Sox’ remaining 17 games will be in Fort Myers . . . The Sox are still carrying 56 players. The first round of cuts will likely come on Saturday.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.