Rivera: Pedroia gives Red Sox another question mark

Boston Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia reacts after flying put during the third inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) (Photo by Associated Press)

Thank you, Dustin Pedroia. In 13 seasons wearing the Red Sox uniform, you’ve given fans plenty of great memories. You quickly immersed yourself as a Fenway favorite in 2007 as the American League Rookie of the Year. A year later you were the American League MVP and proved you were no fluke. You were a crucial piece of a team that won four division titles and two World Series crowns. You hosted a hitting clinic for Wyoma’s Little Leaguers two summers ago.

Most importantly, you played hard day in and day out. You were a true “dirt dog” player, reminiscent of a Trot Nixon-type who wasn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty and make the tough plays that help win games. You were a fighter, a player that gave it 110 percent even when times were tough and opposing teams expected you to quit. You played with an edge and showed that heart trumps size on the diamond.

But now you’re fighting a battle in which the odds are stacked against you. It’s 2019 and you’re not the Dustin Pedroia you once were. Father Time says the end is near and it’s time to accept that reality.

Pedroia’s knees indicate that his playing days are limited. He played three games in 2018 before the Red Sox decided to shut him down for the remainder of the season. This year he made it to six games before the team placed him on the 10-day injured list for the second time in a month. The Red Sox are calling it “knee irritation” but the only thing irritating about this mess is how devoted they are to beating around the bush.

Pedroia doesn’t have it anymore. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016, when he hit .318. Since then he’s been a shell of himself, a massive downgrade from the player who won major awards in his first two seasons. Pedroia batted .091 in his three games last season. This season, he’s batting .100. Those aren’t the numbers of a player who’s capable of being an everyday second baseman. They’re the numbers of a 35-year-old who refuses to realize that his time’s up.

I’ll give him credit. It’s not like Pedoria’s going out there and dogging it to collect his paycheck. He wants to be out there, he wants to help the Red Sox win and he wants to be the Pedroia of old. I have no doubts about that. But when the knees say otherwise, the rest of the body follows. And the knees are telling Pedroia it’s time to move on.

The Red Sox knew the writing was on the wall and they failed. Dave Dombrowski gambled on Pedroia recovering and getting back to being the team’s everyday second baseman in 2019. In the process, Dombrowski passed up on a number of reliable second basemen in free agency. Marwin Gonzalez, who can play anywhere defensively, signed a 2-year, $21 million contract with Minnesota. Jonathan Schoop also signed with the Twins, on a 1-year deal for $7.5 million. DJ LeMahieu inked a 2-year, $24 million deal with the Yankees. Asdrubal Cabrera agreed to a 1-year, $3.5 million deal with Texas. Cabrera has belted six home runs this season. LeMahieu’s batting a solid .313 in New York. Gonzalez and Schoop have started the season slow but the Twins are 9-7.

Internally, the Red Sox are left with limited options. Eduardo Nunez hasn’t flourished at second base. He’s much more comfortable as a third baseman, where he platooned with Rafael Devers during last year’s championship run. Can Nunez fill-in at second base while the Red Sox patch things up? Certainly. But he isn’t the solution. Neither is Brock Holt. Michael Chavis hasn’t seen much time at second base in the minors. Tzu Wei-Lin shouldn’t even be on the roster. Let’s hope Ian Kinsler isn’t walking through that door.

Through a gruesome 7-13 start, and an 8-game mountain to climb, the Red Sox need answers and they need them fast. Instead, Pedroia offers yet another question mark to a team that has too many of them as its losses continue to pile.

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