The Red Sox weren't going to make that mistake again. But attributing Pedroia's presence merely to a lesson learned could be wrong. The Sox inserted him into a low-stress situation late last season when they were already in their infamous injury-greased slide, with no promise that he would have a chance for any more than the usual placemat duties.When Gonzalez went down with an oblique strain on Aug. 22, Pedroia made his sheepish way into the Boston clubhouse to play out their string, a bit at short, mostly at second. Only those privy to behind-the-scenes stuff know to what extent Epstein canvassed the offseason market for a veteran second baseman. All that matters is Pedroia hung around to become Boston's first Opening Day position player since 2001. He was also the 13th different starting second baseman in 14 Opening Days. Well, yeah, the others aged out of the job. That shouldn't be a problem for a while with this one. Without doubt, Pedroia is sneaking up on people who may have written him off after his transparent (.182) April. Especially when they realized how perfectly that mirrored his first five big-league weeks, as he hit .191 down the 2006 wire. They must have figured, "Okay, this is what we're going to get." People who know the game, who know how time and experience become the yeast of rising talent -- or who knew Pedroia -- knew better. Boston manager Terry Francona cautioned back in Spring Training, "In April, we might not see the player we're going to see." San Diego reliever Cla Meredith, who partnered with Pedroia in the Boston farm system prior to being dealt to the Padres, was even more effusive. "Don't sell him short -- pardon the pun," Meredith had said. "He's going to open some eyes and he's going to do some things that will make you go, 'Wow.'" We're all going, "Wow!" Dustin is wowing the league on both ends of the ball, having also played an errorless second base for 37 consecutive games. But, little guys are supposed to excel at picking it and throwing it. They are not meant to have wall punch -- the reason why guys like Fred Patek become instant celebrities when they do muscle a few balls over it. In truth, Pedroia has hit his whole life. In three years at Arizona State University, he never hit lower than .347. During his steady climb up the Minor League ladder, he hit .357 in Single-A, .324 in Double-A and .289 in Triple-A. "He's got some pop in there," said Varitek. "But as much pop as he shows occasionally, he controls the bat very well. That's the key for him." On that near game-winner, it was hard to conclude who was more surprised: Abreu, for having to tear back for the drive off the little guy's bat, or Pedroia, because Abreu caught up with it. "I crushed it," Pedroia said with a shrug. "But the wind was blowing in, and it was raining. I thought it was over his head, but he made a good play." Perhaps mindful of a 10 1/2-game lead over the division and a lead of 12 1/2 games over the Yankees, Pedroia added, "No big deal." Neither is he. The real little deal, yes.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.