FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The Red Sox had a big lead in last year's opener at Yankee Stadium. Still, Dustin Pedroia slid headfirst trying to beat out his grounder.
Bad decision, especially with Boston ahead 8-2 in the ninth inning.
The win-at-all-costs second baseman tore a ligament in his left thumb, then missed just two games the rest of the season.
"It was the most impressive thing I watched all year. The thumb was totally black," third-base and infield coach Brian Butterfield said Monday. "He didn't want anybody to know about it."
So it's not surprising that Pedroia downplayed how much it bothered him.
"A little bit, but it's fine now," he said. "It's fixed up, man. It's good. It's good to go."
Pedroia had surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament 14 days after the Red Sox won the World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. He wore a cast for about a month. Then he worked on regaining his strength.
And on Monday he took batting practice three days before the first official full-squad workout.
His attitude, typically, is upbeat.
"The rehab was great," Pedroia said. "I feel healthy and there's no setbacks, no restrictions or anything."
The Red Sox won their second title in four years in 2007 and Pedroia was named AL rookie of the year.
In 2008, he was the league's MVP, but the Red Sox lost the AL championship series despite leading 1-0 in Game 7 through three innings against Tampa Bay.
"That was a huge letdown," Pedroia said. "You don't want that feeling."
He tried to keep that from happening last year when the Red Sox were in first place through the first 34 games. He was hitting .311 at that point and wasn't about to take time off because of his thumb with so much at stake.
Pedroia did even better in the next 10 games. He went 18 for 40 to raise his average to .343.
"The first month and a half he hit with one hand and he played with one hand," Butterfield said, "but he never even blinked. He's so impressive in so many ways and he showed unbelievable toughness."
His average never dropped below .291 for the season and he ended at .301 while leading the AL with 724 plate appearances. He tied for second in the AL in hits and was second in the league in fielding percentage among second basemen.