Just in time for the Red Sox’ festivities at Fenway Park, Dustin Pedroia was activated from the injured list Tuesday morning.
The franchise icon batted seventh and played second base in his first game since last May.
He had an eventful afternoon, going 1-for-4 while leaving four runners on base in the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
“I mean, I was nervous,” Pedroia said. “I was working for 16 months just to get ready to do this. Last year I played three games and I don’t feel like I did last year. I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be able to play. I was excited. I didn’t sleep much. I enjoy playing and I enjoy being a Red Sox. So it was fun.”
Pedroia’s first at-bat of the season came in a big spot, with runners on the corners and nobody out in the second inning. He got a 1-0 fastball down the middle from Jays starter Matt Shoemaker and drove it straight into the ground for a routine double play, though one run did score.
He again had runners on the corners with two outs in the fourth, but he grounded out to end the inning.
And in the sixth, with the Sox down just one and Rafael Devers on second base with two outs, Pedroia hit a line drive out to right field.
“It was awesome but I mean, it kind of messed me up,” he said. “My first couple at-bats I was trying too hard and I was kind of in a big spot.
“I was just trying to get on base. After my second at-bat I kind of calmed down and was able to try to have good at-bats and see the ball. I was amped my first couple and I hit a line drive to right and that kind of settled me down a little.”
In the ninth inning, with the Sox down two against Jays closer Ken Giles, Pedroia smoked a 99 mph fastball to right field for a leadoff single, his best at-bat of the day.
The Red Sox were hoping Pedroia could provide that kind of spark after their slow start to the season.
“He brings that energy that not a lot people have,” Mitch Moreland said.
Said Xander Bogaerts, “It puts a smile on your face with all he means to the team, the city, the community, and I think just the baseball world in general.”
During the offseason, manager Alex Cora said Pedroia would bat leadoff if he was ready for Opening Day in Seattle, but it took Pedroia two extra weeks to prepare as the Red Sox look to keep him healthy for the long haul.
“We know the type of player he is and when healthy he can contribute,” Cora said. “He’s going to hit seventh for us and the reason he’s hitting down there, he’s going to have a lot of traffic in front of him. He can put the ball in play, he can go the other way, we can run with him. Defensively he’s a plus.
“Nothing against the other two guys, because they’ve done a good job, in (Eduardo Nunez) and Brock (Holt). But Pedey is elite. Elite at second base. He turns he double play, he makes the play to his left. He’s a leader in the infield. He can slow down things for the kids out there. So for the plus he brings offensively, I think defensively he’s going to be a game-changer for us.”
Tzu-Wei Lin was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Pedroia, who had been continuing his progress in regaining strength in his injured left knee while rehabbing with High-A Greenville.
He had a nervous moment late in the game, when he fielded a throw on a stolen base attempt and kept his left foot in front of the bag. Teoscar Hernandez slid right into it, popping Pedroia’s left knee into the air as he fell to the ground. Pedroia stayed still for a minute, but stayed in the game.
“It’s never happened to me,” Pedroia said. “His spike went through my shoelace and he pulled my leg and it just kept going and I was kind of stuck to him. So that was it. Bogey thought I hurt my knee again and I was like, ‘Nah, I’ve just gotta tie my shoes again.’ Like six knots. I tie ’em a lot so it took me forever but I was OK.
“My knee can’t get any worse so it’s going to be all right. It is what it is. I’m just excited to be out here and be able to help the team and play and be around the guys. It’s going to be fun.”
PUERTO RICO PRIDE
Cora and Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo made history as the first two Puerto Rican natives to manage against each other in a big league game.
“At one point before I got hired here we had no Puerto Rican managers and all of a sudden we have three out of 30,” Cora said. “That is a pretty good rate. Looking forward to competing against him. I know it is a special day for him, too. His mother’s birthday is today.”
Asked if he’d give Montoyo a free win as a gift, Cora joked, “Not in this town. Not in this town.”
CLOSE CALL FOR JOHNSON
The Red Sox originally feared lefty Brian Johnson would miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury he suffered in Arizona over the weekend, but test results were encouraging.
“It’s not as bad as we thought it would be,” Cora said. “Now it is just a matter of a plan and go from there. At one point we thought that it was the end of the season and that is not the case.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Cora moved Devers from the three-hole to No. 6 and Moreland hit third.
“So when they bring that lefty in for the third spot, we’ve got Steve Pearce,” Cora said.
Moreland connected on his fourth homer of the season. The last Red Sox hitter with four homers through 12 team games was Hanley Ramirez in 2015.
Mookie Betts hit a solo homer, his third of the year, over the Green Monster in the sixth. It was his hardest-hit ball of the season at 105.2 mph exit velocity.