Pedroia’s thumb injury poses a real dilemma
This is a different type of dilemma for the Red Sox.
They usually aren’t presented with a scenario in which a player wants to try to play through an injury. Usually it’s a player saying he’s hurt and goes on the disabled list. But this is Dustin Pedroia, and he’s not your average ballplayer.
Pedroia is a throwback. Pedroia is tough and wants to play through what he revealed Tuesday night was a tear in the muscle in his right thumb.
“I had an MRI this morning and our hand specialist looked at it as did Dr. [Donald] Sheridan in Arizona, who did my hamate bone surgery in 2007. I got a tear in my abductor muscle in my thumb. It’s a muscle so I’m just waiting to see how I feel the next couple of days. The swelling in my thumb has gone down. The bruising has gone down so we’re just waiting to see if I could play,’’ Pedroia said.
The second baseman, who missed his first game of the season Tuesday night, hopes to avoid the disabled list for what is normally a 2-4 week injury.
“I’m optimistic,’’ Pedroia said. “We’re still talking about it and if the swelling and stuff goes down, I won’t miss that much time.’’
When asked if he could further damage it if he played through, Pedroia said, “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I just want to be here for the guys. If I can protect it when I hit, we’ll be all right. Hopefully, I heal quick and I can get back out there as soon as I can. My ligaments and tendons are fine. It’s the only muscle in the thumb. I have to wait for it to calm down and see if I can hit with a splint or a brace or something. And we’ll go on from there.’’
Pedroia said surgery was never mentioned. The injury is similar to one suffered by Kevin Youkilis, but not as severe. Youkilis required surgery.
“Youk’s was a lot worse,’’ Pedroia said. “He had some other things. I lucked out. Where I did mine is the meatiest part of my thumb, so there is some good news.’’
Pedroia said he hurt the thumb three weeks ago swinging the bat and he aggravated it Monday in a fourth-inning at-bat against Doug Fister.
Manager Bobby Valentine, general manager Ben Cherington, Pedroia, the doctors, and trainers all huddled in Valentine’s office after Boston’s 6-3 win over the Tigers to map out a course of action. The big dilemma is whether to allow Pedroia to keep playing and risk further injury or shut him down for two weeks and then re-evaluate.
Shutting him down might be the most prudent option. But again, the team is dealing with a player who’s fighting to play.
“I don’t have to show them anything,’’ Pedroia said. “I’ve played with injuries before. It comes down to me being able to swing with a brace on. I’ll get something made and see how it feels. If I can’t do it, it’s three or four weeks, so hopefully it’s not that.’’
Valentine said of Pedroia, “He’s an amazing guy and an amazing healer and sometimes he wills things. His mind right now is on the side of playing. I’m going to give it another day or even two and see how it feels.
“The risk of losing him for an extended period of time is not worth having him play sooner rather than later. We’re going to be intelligent and he’s on board. He’s a smart guy.’’
The Sox disabled list contains 16 names totaling 531 games missed, the most in major league baseball.
If Pedroia goes to the disabled list, it becomes a math game. What percentage of Pedroia can the Sox realistically be able to replace?
They can call up Pedro Ciriaco from Pawtucket to play second. Or they could go with Nick Punto at the position for a couple of weeks.
Another option, Jose Iglesias, was hitting .341 in May (28 for 82) heading into Tuesday night and was up to .269 overall, although he has been battling lower back stiffness.
Ciriaco, who was 10 for 26 with seven RBIs in his last six games heading into Tuesday night, impressed Valentine in spring training and got off to a good start in Pawtucket. He was ninth in the International League in hitting at .301.
Pedroia is hitting .295 with 5 homers and 21 RBIs. Until Tuesday night, Pedroia had started every game. That distinction belongs solely to Adrian Gonzalez now.
The Sox had hoped the injury woes had come to an end.
It has already cost them starters Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, and Kevin Youkilis. Crawford was taking swings before Tuesday’s game but is still about 10 days from throwing. Who knows with Ellsbury? Both appear destined for a July return. Ross could be ready sooner.
And so Cherington, Valentine and the doctors must make a tough decision in the next 24 hours. Let Pedroia play through it, or let him rest it?
“It’s pretty clear we can treat it conservatively and it’s just a matter of, before we send him back out there, that we’re protecting him the best we can, where he’s not putting himself in any undue risk. We’re working on that and working on ways to protect him. He said he felt a lot better this evening than he did yesterday, so that stuff matters,’’ Cherington said.
Cherington said there’s “no blueprint’’ for whether Pedroia is at risk of injuring himself more.
“As with any injury, the healing will likely take place over time,’’ he said. “In this league, players come back and play on injuries all the time. So it’s really about managing the risk before he gets out there he can do what he needs to do and we’re not putting him in any undue risk.
“There’s some risk just like with any injury, that it could worsen. That’s our job and Dustin’s job to make sure that we’re minimizing that risk as much as possible before gets back out there . . . so we’re just trying to manage that and do the right thing for him and do the right thing for the team.’’
Tough call, but the wise call would be let it rest. It’s still early.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.