Saturday, February 26, 2011
Pedroia, Youkilis back in action
By Joe McDonald ESPNBoston.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox returned Saturday.
For the first time in a long time, Red Sox manager Terry Francona wrote the names of Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis on a lineup card.
Pedroia suffered a broken left foot last June and attempted to return in August but played only two games before it was decided he would have season-ending surgery. Youkilis tore a muscle in his right thumb Aug. 2 and needed season-ending surgery.
Without those two in the lineup, the Red Sox scuffled and the club failed to earn a postseason berth. Both worked hard, continued their rehab during the offseason and arrived at camp 100 percent healthy and ready to go.
Dustin Pedroia got to test his healed foot in game action Saturday in Fort Myers.
The Sox played their annual doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern on Saturday at City of Palms Park, and both Pedroia and Youkilis played in the matinee against the Eagles.
Pedroia played second and hit in his usual No. 2 spot, while Youkilis is back at third base and hit cleanup. Pedroia went 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored in his two-inning stint. Youkilis went 1-for-1 (a three-run homer) with a walk in three innings.
"It's just nice to see both of them on the field, running around and looking healthy," Francona said.
While Pedroia will be off from game action, Youkilis will play against the Twins on Sunday night at Hammond Stadium. The biggest test for Pedroia will be how he feels when he wakes up Sunday morning. Francona said Pedroia would likely play every other day for a while.
"I wasn't out there very long, but I felt good," Pedroia said. "My foot felt good. My timing is all jacked up, but that will take some time. Physically, I felt great. The ball looks like it's coming in at a thousand miles per hour. It takes time."
Pedroia still needs to spend an hour before and after the game stretching and receiving treatment on his foot. It was tested during his second plate appearance when he hit a ball up the middle and needed to sprint down the first-base line when BC second baseman Anthony Melchionda made a diving play.
"I haven't done it in a while, but I felt good," Pedroia said. "I didn't see him catch it because the pitcher was in my way, but once I saw that I was like, 'Damn. I better run hard.' It was good."
Pedroia wasn't given the opportunity to make a play in the field, but it was evident he's not having any mobility issues. Francona has been hitting him fungoes every morning and there's been no limitations.
"He's moves around too well to not feel good," Francona said.
If the Red Sox had reached the postseason last fall, Youkilis was preparing to play. When that didn't happen, he had to wait until Saturday to get back into game action. He said after the Sox's 6-0 victory over BC that he was relatively calm and just wanted to get back into the flow.
"It's fun just to get back out there," Youkilis said. "The balls off the bat and the adrenaline rush, you basically have to harness all that adrenaline in and try to work on things. It was good to go out there and get the spikes on."
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It didn't take long for Youkilis to get into the game. The second batter of the game, BC's Garret Smith, smoked a grounder down the third-base line. Youkilis made a diving play, quickly got to his feet and made a strong throw across the diamond for the out.
"I'd rather have those than the ones that are hit right at you," he said. "It was great to get a play like that and get it out of the way. There are a lot more plays down the road, and there will be ones that I boot around this year."
Pedroia and Youkilis aren't the only ones healthy and ready to play.
Outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron played the nightcap against the Huskies. Ellsbury was limited to 18 games in 2010 because of three separate rib injuries, and Cameron played only 48 games because of an abdominal strain.
Ellsbury went 0-for-1 with a walk and was encouraged by his brief performance, but he didn't expect to play Sunday night against the Twins.
"It felt good getting out there," Ellsbury said. "I feel ahead of schedule than a normal spring training. Everything is going along smooth."
Cameron, who went 0-for-2, said he's expecting a road block at some point this spring because of the workload, but the fact he's playing pain-free is significant. He's expecting to play again Sunday night.
"I feel good. I feel better mentally, so I don't have anything on my mind that's holding me back," Cameron said. "I'm good. Now I can just go out and play."
Boston suffered a slew of injuries in 2010 to key members of the club, but Francona said he never allowed himself to think about the what-ifs.
"Never. Never. We're always trying to win," Francona said. "Regardless of what happens, I don't think you can do that. If you spend one minute feeling sorry for yourself, wondering 'What if?' it doesn't work."
At this point, everyone's healthy and that was on display Saturday.
"It's great. Everyone's excited. It makes you hungry," Pedroia said. "We haven't been out there together in a while. It's going to be fun. We're all pumped up about it."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.