SEATTLE — A familiar voice filled the Red Sox clubhouse on Sunday morning.
As sleepy members of the Red Sox filed into T-Mobile Park, they heard Dustin Pedroia talking a mile a minute. Pedroia, who traveled to Fort Myers from the Red Sox’ exhibition games against the Cubs in Arizona last week, was on FaceTime with pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, delivering what amounted to a monologue that had members of the team cracking up.
Pedroia’s boisterous communique reinforced the notion that the second baseman continues to make steady progress toward a return to the big leagues as he continues to strengthen his surgically repaired left knee and gradually build his workload to the point of being able to play without restrictions.
“He played eight [innings Sunday] at 9:30 in the morning,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “That’s a good sign.”
So good, in fact, that Pedroia is soon scheduled to leave Fort Myers in his ongoing effort to play in the big leagues for the first time since last May 29. After an off-day on Monday, he’s slated to play nine innings in extended spring training on Tuesday, and then barring a setback, he’ll join Single A Greenville on a rehab assignment for the Drive’s Opening Day on Thursday.
Greenville was chosen as the venue for the start of Pedroia’s rehab assignment largely due to weather conditions that are more favorable than those in the other Red Sox minor league affiliates that will start play this week. Cora doesn’t think that the veteran necessarily needs to compete against more advanced minor leaguers before he’s ready to play in the big leagues.
“Whenever he gets here, he’ll step it up a notch,” said Cora.
Pedroia has told Cora that he’s been swinging well in extended spring, resulting in a number of baserunning opportunities that have given the team further indications about how he’s handling the physical demands of playing in games. The Red Sox do not yet have a timetable for when Pedroia will play in back-to-back games (a critical box to check in his progression), how long he might be in Greenville, or whether there’s a chance he could join the big league team in Boston for the April 9 home opener.
But the fact that he continues to increase his playing time suggests that he’s moving steadily in the right direction, as does the impending start of a 30-day rehab assignment.
“So far so good,” said Cora. “There’s no setbacks.”
Price debuts Monday
David Price will make his first start of the season on Monday in Oakland after his first start of the season was delayed slightly by illness in the team’s waning days in Fort Myers. Instead of pitching in Seattle, the Red Sox had him start their final spring training game in Arizona against the Cubs last Tuesday, followed by five days of rest entering the series opener against the A’s.
Price is coming off a year in which he twice adapted his arsenal significantly, first in the middle of the year after a poor outing against the Yankees (moving from the third to first base side of the rubber and leaning heavily on two-seamers, cutters, and changeups), then again in the playoffs, when he started throwing fewer cutters and more four-seamers up in the zone, with changeups diving below it.
To open this season, Price envisions using the mix that proved dominant in his final outings of 2018, but he also recognizes that there will come a time when he alters his repertoire over the course of the season to disrupt opponents’ game plans.
“I think [the pitch mix] does change throughout the season, the type of pitcher that you can be – I guess more for myself than other people. I know that I’ll change pitching styles throughout the course of the season,” said Price. “I definitely switched stuff up there at the end. I was using different pitches, using them differently. I do want to try and stick with what I had success with at the end of last year. But stuff isn’t going to be the same at times, and you’ve got to be able to adjust.”
Kimbrel congratulates Barnes
Among those to reach out to Matt Barnes to offer congratulations for his save on Friday: Former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. “It was awesome,” said Barnes. “He’s a good dude.” . . . J.D. Martinez drove in four runs, in the process becoming the first Red Sox player since Shea Hillenbrand in 2003 to drive in at least one run in each of the team’s first four contests of the year. However, his plus/minus took a hit thanks to the misplayed fly ball that resulted in four unearned runs. The Red Sox made a number of misplays during the series, committing six errors and allowing six unearned runs . . . The Red Sox bullpen allowed one run over 5⅓ innings on Sunday, concluding the four-game set with an outstanding performance. In 18 innings, Red Sox relievers forged a 2.50 ERA while striking out 25 batters . . . Andrew Benintendi was out of the lineup on Sunday after smashing a foul ball off his right kneecap against Mike Leake on Saturday night. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning, and Cora expects him to start on Monday in Oakland . . . First baseman Steve Pearce (left calf) played in extended spring training on Saturday, and was described by Cora as “getting closer” to a return to the big leagues.