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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Motivated Pedroia heating up

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Whether you've heard the name or not, Jon Zeringue had a lot to do with the Boston Red Sox beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-3 on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Before you go check Baseball-Reference.com for his vitals, here's the CliffsNotes version on the outfielder: Zeringue bounced around the minors a little bit after he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round (54th overall) in the 2004 draft out of LSU and signed for $630,000. He played no higher than Double-A, and it's believed he is no longer playing professionally.

Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia is 10 for his last 20 and is hitting above .300 in June after slumping in May.

Now you must really be wondering why Zeringue had anything to do with Boston's win.

If you happen to see Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the street around the ballpark, you should ask him about Jonathan David Zeringue.

He was the player the Diamondbacks drafted 11 picks before the Red Sox selected Pedroia with the 65th overall selection in 2004. Sure, it's worked out for the Red Sox and Pedroia, but the fact the Diamondbacks didn't even consider him still leaves a chip on his shoulder.

While Pedroia was playing collegiate ball at Arizona State, which is only a hit-and-run away from Chase Field, the Diamondbacks showed no interest in the shortstop, the position he played for the Sun Devils.

Arizona, like a lot of other organizations, didn't believe the diminutive Pedroia could ever play in the big leagues. So anytime he gets a chance to prove people wrong, which he seems to want to do on a daily basis, he makes sure to remind those who doubted him.

Tuesday night was another one of those times. He went 2-for-3, including a double and three runs scored, to help Boston to victory in the opener of this three-game set. Prior to the game, Pedroia, now a permanent resident of the Grand Canyon State, spent the afternoon being interviewed by Arizona radio and television stations because he's considered a native son. After his performance on the field, he was asked whether he gets a little more fired up about playing against the Diamondbacks.

"Yeah, I was right in their backyard. It happens," he said with a bit of a sinister laugh.

Overall, Pedroia is 10-for-24 (.417) in seven career games against the Diamondbacks with seven runs scored and three RBIs. While Zeringue is not around, the Diamondbacks' Stephen Drew is another reminder. Drew, the younger brother of Red Sox's J.D. Drew, was Arizona's first pick (15th overall) in 2004.

More importantly for the Red Sox, Pedroia is starting to heat up at the plate after a slump.

He's 10-for-20 in his past five games and is hitting .310 for the month of June after posting a .213 average in May. Pedroia has been bothered by a right knee injury but has played through it.

"I'm feeling better. I'm getting the results, which is a good thing," he said. "I thought I was messed up there for a while. I was having trouble walking up stairs and that kind of worried me, but my legs are probably three inches and that's part of the problem. I'm getting better. I'll be fine."

He recently had an MRI taken and the results came back negative. The discomfort, however, had been affecting his swing.

"I was just trying to hit the ball. I was striking out quite a bit and I was lunging out to get the ball, which is really not a part of my game. I try to stay on my back side as much as possible," he said.

As he left Fenway Park after Tuesday's victory, it was clear Pedroia is still walking with a limp. He said recently even if the team's medical staff amputated his leg, he would still find a way to play.

"Pedey, his last 20 to 25 at-bats have been really good," Francona said. "He went through a dry spell and that happens from time to time. He'll get just as hot, as he's starting to do right now. I think Pedey's health is a big thing. When he got his knee checked I think it was good for him mentally."

Because he's been playing so well of late, and with the Diamondbacks in town for another two games, odds are that Pedroia's streak will continue, especially with the interleague schedule continuing through the weekend and on the club's next road trip, where one of the Sox's stops will be San Francisco.

It just so happens Pedroia has a chip on his shoulder with the Giants, too. The Woodland, Calif., native grew up a Giants fans and wasn't too thrilled when they passed on drafting him, too. "It's fun. I root for the Giants and I live in Arizona, so it's fun to play those teams," he said.

The whereabouts of Jon Zeringue are unknown. Pedroia's accomplishments since the day the Diamondbacks passed on him are well known. What's also obvious is the way he's hitting the ball right now.

"He's the last guy I worry about hitting," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who crushed a two-run homer on Tuesday. "I know the laser show was coming."

Pedroia did, too.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.