COMMENTARY | When news broke that Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia had been playing through a serious thumb injury, fans were certainly wary, but not altogether surprised.
It's not that Pedroia's been struggling this season--far from it in fact. His batting average and OBP through the first third of the season are the highest of his career at .332 and .422. Both numbers are also top-six in the AL. His power numbers are down only slightly--but still productive--and he hasn't made a single error in the field so far.
But late Tuesday it was made public that Pedroia has been suffering through a complete tear of the UCL since opening day against the New York Yankees--sliding headfirst into first base while the Red Sox were up six runs. A hustle play that didn't need to be made at that point in the game, but still was.
Doctors told him that if he could withstand the pain, he wouldn't do any additional damage to the thumb. So Pedroia took that and ran.
Since then, Pedroia has performed as if he were completely healthy, even if that wasn't necessarily the case. "People shouldn't know if you're 100 percent or not. It is what it is, and it's my responsibility to perform well,'' he said.
And he has. The day after suffering that injury he went 2 for 5 and brought in his second RBI of the series. He had 33 hits in April, a month many players would have sat at home and rested.
Pedroia had every excuse to take off the first eight weeks of the season--the estimated rehab time--but he's not that player. He'd rather be out on the field, competing. "My mindset is if I'm nicked up, I have to find other ways to perform. That's the way I think about it. Maybe I'm crazy.''
Throughout his career, Pedroia has been the consummate pro. It's not just the big things like playing through this latest injury--and likely countless others that were never made public. It's the little as well; after every walk, he'll routinely do the opposite and run to first. Small, but noticeable to his teammates.
This is the type of attitude that has endeared himself to the Boston fanbase. Pedroia is one of the most well-liked players on the team, and even around baseball. Rarely does he argue with the umpires, getting himself ejected only twice in his career.
Many other players can stand to follow Pedroia's lead. He makes everything about the team first and sacrifices himself for it. If there is no risk of his injury getting worse, why shouldn't he be out on the field with the rest of his team helping them win?
"It's a player's decision to shut it down or play. Players play." Inspiring words from the heart and soul of the Red Sox. His enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Teammate Jon Lester added, " If that doesn't fire you up then you don't have a pulse!"
Andrew Luistro has followed the Red Sox for over 20 years. He also writes for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal.
Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7.
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