Commentary

Dustin Pedroia pulls team together

Energetic leader a galvanizing force on and off the field for Red Sox

Updated: July 31, 2012, 2:20 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- No matter what players say in the days and weeks leading up to baseball's yearly trade deadline, there's always chatter and anxiety in the clubhouse as July 31 looms.

It's a business, and players are never stunned by anything these days. Though it may be tough to fathom an organization like the Boston Red Sox would contemplate trading homegrown talent, it's always a possibility.

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDustin Pedroia, who hit the go-ahead home run for the Red Sox on Monday, has a way of firing up his team.

Opposing general managers in the past have asked the Red Sox what it would take to acquire top players such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester, and it has happened again this season. Before the Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis, other organizations would ask about him too.

In most cases, the answer was "no," whether it came from former Sox GM Theo Epstein or current baseball operations boss Ben Cherington.

The Red Sox take pride in scouting, drafting, signing and developing the club's talent in hopes of the players making an impact at the big league level sooner rather than later. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia is the perfect example of that philosophy bearing fruit, so it's safe to say other teams haven't even broached a trade involving him because the Red Sox would never consider it.

During his rookie season of 2007, Pedroia won a World Series and was AL Rookie of the Year. He followed by being the AL MVP in 2008, in addition to becoming an All-Star and also winning a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger award.

In the years the Red Sox were perennial winners, Pedroia was good. Now that the Red Sox have been in last place in the AL East for the majority of the season, Pedroia has been needed more off the field than on it.

Even without his close friend Terry Francona as manager, following the 2011 September collapse, Pedroia has been trying to keep the peace in the clubhouse during this season's struggles.

"It's a big part of the job," Pedroia said after Monday's 7-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park. "Stuff that happened last year, I'm trying my hardest -- and we all are -- to not let it happen. Everybody wants something to happen this year."

The Red Sox have not earned a postseason berth since 2009, and even though the playoffs appear to be a long shot this season, Boston has shown spurts of putting together a winning streak and possibly closing the gap in the AL East.

The Red Sox are in the midst of a three-game winning streak, and Pedroia is a big reason why.

Playing in his 800th career game on Monday, Pedroia belted a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning to give Boston a 4-2 lead. It was his ninth home run of the season and his first at Fenway Park since May 10. He has homered in three of his past five games and has four in 13 games this month after not hitting any in his previous 40 games.

Good hitters get hot this time of the season and Pedroia is no exception. In fact, July and August are his two most successful months at the plate, posting career averages .344 and .316 respectively.

"I feel good," he said. "I've just got to keep going. It's a long year and we've got a long way to go. I'm just concentrating on helping the team win ballgames. We've just got to play hard and keep playing. We'll look up at the end and see where we're at."

Earlier in the day, the rumor mill was churning about the possibility the Red Sox would trade right-handed pitcher Josh Beckett. The local media attempted to talk to Beckett when the clubhouse opened, but he said "I've got nothing for you" as reporters surrounded his locker.

Pedroia was walking through the room when he yelled out, "If I had 10-5 rights, I'd veto a trade too. That's right. Woooo."

A few minutes later, with the majority of reporters attending Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's daily news conference in the interview room at Fenway, Beckett walked past fellow pitcher Aaron Cook, who asked the veteran right-hander if he would be here after Tuesday's trade deadline.

"I don't know," Beckett answered.

That's one feeling Pedroia never has to worry about.

ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes reported late Monday night that a team source said that the Red Sox would not trade Beckett, even though the organization considered pulling the trigger if a deal made sense.

As long as Pedroia continues to play the game the right way and continues to be successful, his teammates will never ask him if he thinks he'll be around after a trade deadline passes. He's signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015.

"If you were to look up the perfect teammate in a baseball dictionary, he would have to be right at the top," first-year Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross said. "He's got the most energy that I've ever seen from a player. He does the most with the ability that he has and absolutely gives it all he has. He's so intense on the field and he's great in the clubhouse. I'm proud to call him a teammate."

Pedroia has missed 16 games this season due to a right thumb injury, including a trip to the disabled list earlier this month.

"He's basically been playing injured all year," Ross said. "When you see a guy go out there and tough it out, play hurt, play hard and not giving in to any excuses, to watch him perform and do the things that he does, he leads by example and also leads with his mouth too. It's a real treat to see it on a daily basis."

Pedroia loves to run his mouth. No one is safe from his verbal barbs. When he produces on the field, he becomes even more engaging.

"When he gets fired up, we get fired up," said rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who collected his 13th homer of the season with a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday night. "He's a firecracker and it's fun to have a guy like that because it pushes everybody."

The offensive numbers may not be where he would like them to be, but Pedroia finally is healthy and feeling back to normal for the first time all season. He also believes that once the season is over, whenever that is, his numbers will be pretty close to where he usually finishes each year.

That's all well and good, but he would rather play deep into the postseason and not be traveling home to Arizona for the winter in the first week of October. He has been trying to keep his teammates and the fans motivated this season with his actions on and off the field and his teammates have noticed his contributions.

"He's everything you ask for from a guy," Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "He works hard. He puts the work in and he's prepared. He plays his heart out and leaves it all out on the line and that's all you can ask for. He's incredible out there."

While Pedroia doesn't have to worry about his own status with the Red Sox as the deadline nears, he says he's not spending a lot of time thinking about whether the team will have a different look to its roster when the deadline comes and goes at 4 p.m. ET.

"I'm not going to go home and stare at the TV or anything. I'm going to play with Thomas the Train and stuff like that, man," he said with a smile, referring to spending time with his son, Dylan. "That's it."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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