Dustin Pedroia acknowledged Wednesday what has become increasingly apparent for several weeks: He is unlikely to play again this season.
But the Red Sox second baseman was adamant that his career will continue following the extensive surgery on his left knee last fall.
“Yeah, and I’ll be better than ever,” Pedroia said. “Absolutely. Absolutely.”
Pedroia, his surgeon, and the Red Sox medical staff agree that his knee must fully heal before he returns to the field. They fear a repeat of what happened in May, when Pedroia lasted only three games after coming off the disabled list.
That leaves roughly 12 weeks for Pedroia to be medically cleared, then go through the steps needed to play in the majors.
As every day passes, that becomes less likely. Pedroia, 34, also understands he has to put long-term concerns ahead of short-term goals.
“I’ve healed quick with every other injury I’ve had. But this is obviously different,” he said. “You can’t risk it. If I come back too early and the graft fails, then that’s it.”
Pedroia will soon return home to Arizona and continue treatments with a physical therapist, Keith Kocher, he has worked with before.
“The treatment that I need, it’s tough to get all that done [in Boston]. Our staff is trying to get all the other guys ready. It’s tough,” Pedroia said. “It stinks leaving the guys, but it’s kind of the right thing to do so I can concentrate on my rehab and not have to split it up throughout the day.
“[The Sox] kind of suggested it. It’s not like I’m going to be gone for a long period of time. It’s just at this stage right now it’s probably smart to do that.”
Pedroia will have a better idea of where he stands in 4-5 weeks. If he is deemed fully healed by then, there’s a chance he could return in September.
But it’s more likely he’s looking at 2019.
“I’d love to play right now. But I can’t . . . I’m going to be back for good if I let it heal. That’s it. I’ve got to let it heal,” said Pedroia, who is signed through 2021 with $40 million remaining on his deal after this season.
Pedroia had what was described as a “cartilage restoration procedure” on Oct. 25 in New York and did not play competitively until late April in extended spring training.
After appearing in five minor league games, Pedroia was activated off the disabled list on May 25. But he played only three games before being shut down again.
In retrospect, Pedroia returned too soon.
“Since I’m a smaller guy they thought I could play during parts of healing,” he said. “I did for a little bit but then I started to have discomfort. That’s just a sign that you have to wait until everything has healed all the way and then build up a running progression so you don’t have any setbacks.
“It’s just time. Obviously I’m not the type of person to hear that correctly. None of us are. When you’re told a timetable to come back, you feel like you fail if you don’t reach that timetable. But that’s really not it.”
As Pedroia waits, the Sox have flourished without him despite what has been below league-average offensive production at second base.
“I love the way we’re playing. I’m glad I got my one hit,” Pedroia said. “I miss it but I have to take care of this.”
Pedroia said this team is comparable to the World Series champions he played on in 2007 and ’13.
“This is a special team,” he said. “I wish I could have a bigger part. I just have to deal with this.”
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.