Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is at a crossroad on a long and challenging return from a left knee injury that’s kept him off the field for the bulk of the past two seasons since he underwent season-ending cartilage replacement surgery in 2017.
Pedroia, who was snared by setbacks as he pushed through a start-and-stop rehab assignment this season, was placed on the 60-day injured list Monday and will take the time to evaluate his future.
Asked flatly if he thought he could return, Pedroia didn’t have a definitive answer.
“I’m not sure,” Pedroia said. “I think that’s the part of the time right now is figuring that out.
“I’ve been lucky to be with this organization and to deal with the people in our training room and our doctors and have the best manager, coaching staff, front office, and they’ve been leading me in the right direction the whole way.
“It’s unfortunate, the type of injury that I have, so I’m just trying to listen to everybody and do the right thing.”
As recently as May 14, when Pedroia was in between rehab stints, he was still optimistic. But he said the status of his knee can change dramatically.
“It’s weird, man,” he said. “Some days I feel fine. An hour later, it’s like walking is tough. So you guys probably caught me at the time where I felt good.
“I think that’s just the tough part at this level. You play 162 games in 183 days or whatever it is. If I’m on an hour-to-hour basis of being able to do anything athletically, that’s tough. I think the time will give me the right answer of if my knee can do this.”
In 11 games between Triple A Pawtucket and Double A Portland the last few weeks, Pedroia hit .189 (7 for 37) with no extra-base hits, one RBI, one walk, and seven strikeouts. The Sox hoped to have him play three games in a row before clearing him to return to the big leagues, but he was unable to do it.
“The last game I played, the pain was kind of to a point where I had to tell the trainer, I’m like, ‘Listen man, I gotta come out,’ ” Pedroia said. “It was a tough day.
“I knew I’d have tough days throughout this process. The next day, I woke up and it wasn’t any better. So it’s to a point now where my knee is not allowing me to play every day. It’s taken a while to realize that.
“I’ve tried so many things — from braces to orthotics to rehab methods to seeing different doctors to every type of treatment possible. So I’m at a point right now where I need some time.”
Pedroia said another procedure was recommended at the end of last season, but that option was not one he was willing to consider.
“That’s part of the issue because the surgery that has been recommended to me after last season is something that not a lot of people want to go through,” he said. “It would affect the quality of my life and things like that. So no, I’m not thinking about having the surgery.”
Asked if retirement crossed his mind, Pedroia, 35, said he was too consumed with working his way back to give it any true thought.
“I think the time will go by and I’ll know more about it,” he said. “I haven’t had a day off in a long time. Every day I wake up and I do some sort of rehab to do anything. So I haven’t even sat down and thought about something like that or anything.
“I just know that right now I need a break from the everyday stresses of dealing with what I’m dealing with, and that’s it.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the time away from rehab will give Pedroia a chance to clear his head.
“I do care about Dustin as a player, but I care most [about] Dustin the person,” Cora said. “We’ve been talking a lot the last few days. For him to disconnect from the whole grind for a little bit is the best thing, not only for him but for his family. They deserve that.
“I’m very proud of him. He’s been an amazing teammate. He’s been very helpful for us as a coaching staff — I’m not saying he’s a coach, but he’s been great, the way he sees the game. Regardless of if he was playing or not, he was there for us last year. He’s one of the best. I really love him.”
Red Sox president of baseball operation Dave Dombrowski praised Pedroia’s effort to return.
“What he’s gone through over the last few years, I don’t know if there’s another player in baseball that would give the effort that he’s given to try to get back,” Dombrowski said. “We’ll see what ends up happening, but I think it’s a wise decision at this time to step back at this time and worry about Dustin as a person and not the player.
“Dustin’s the type of person we want to be in the Boston Red Sox organization for years to come. He’s a David Ortiz, a Pedro Martinez, the list goes on. That’s Dustin Pedroia. Same type of person and player.”
Pedroia said he plans to stay with the team through the week as the Red Sox travel to New York to face the Yankees. From there he’ll go to Arizona to be with his family and take the time to process the decision ahead of him.
“I just tried to do it day by day,” Pedroia said. “I didn’t look at as a long-term thing. It’s kind of tough when all the doctors and everybody I talked to said, ‘No.’ And I’m saying, ‘Yes.’
“So when you’re going through something like that, you’ve just got to put your head down and work. You don’t know the end result and that part’s hard.
“That’s why a little reflection right now, I need. I need to reevaluate, go home, chill out and see how everything responds.”
Dustin Pedroia’s injury timeline
2016: Played 154 games and hit .318 with an .825 OPS and 12 defensive runs saved.
Oct. 12, 2016: Pedroia has left knee surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital to remove a section of meniscus and smooth arthritic joint surfaces. Team orthopedist Peter Asnis does the surgery.
April 21, 2017: In Baltimore, Pedroia is injured in the eighth inning of a 2-0 loss at Baltimore. On a force play at second base, Manny Machado slides over the bag and spikes Pedroia in the knee. Pedroia misses 56 of the remaining 145 games, twice going on the disabled list.
Oct. 15, 2017: Pedroia has arthroscopic surgery to determine the extent of his injuries.
Oct. 25, 2017: Pedroia has what is termed “cartilage restoration surgery” by Dr. Riley Williams III at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. He also has microfracture surgery on his tibia.
May 26-29, 2018: Pedroia goes 1 for 11 in three games after coming off the injured list. He returns to the IL May 30 for the remainder of the season.
July 20, 2018: Pedroia has surgery in Arizona to remove scar tissue from his left knee. Dr. Thomas Carter does the procedure.
Feb. 15, 2019: Pedroia says the cartilage restoration surgery was a mistake and he would not have undergone it had he known the difficulty in returning.
April 9-15, 2019: Pedroia returns from the injured list and goes 2 for 19 in five games.
April 17, 2019: Pedroia feels a pop in his knee taking a swing at Yankee Stadium in the second inning and leaves the game. He returns to the injured list the next day.
May 2-9, 2019: Pedroia plays in five minor league games.
May 13, 2019: Pedroia’s injury rehabilitation assignment is stopped because of what the Red Sox describe as “minor knee soreness.”
May 17, 2019: Pedroia starts another injury rehabilitation assignment.
May 25, 2017: During a game with Double A Portland, Pedroia takes himself out after two at-bats because of pain in his knee.
May 27: Pedroia announces he is stepping back and will reassess his situation and whether he can play again.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.