FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dustin Pedroia had only just recently strained his left abdominal muscle on Saturday when Red Sox teammate Kevin Youkilis, playing alongside Pedroia at the World Baseball Classic, talked some sense into him. Rather than try to play through the injury, as Pedroia was considering doing, Youkilis suggested that he let a doctor make that decision.

"So I did it that way," Pedroia said. "I don't think it's going to linger. I'll take care of it and get it ready and get ready for the season. It won't be an issue."

Pedroia returned to Fort Myers late Saturday night, meeting with Red Sox medical director Dr. Thomas Gill. The prognosis was a strained left abdominal muscle -- not the strained left oblique that the Sox had previously feared. And the recommendation was treatment and rest, until he feels ready to play.

"[There's] nothing to be worried about," Pedroia said. "I'll just take a couple days and try to get it calmed down, and then move on from there. I'm not worried about it."

Feeling something "pinch" after taking a swing during soft toss, Pedroia immediately went to see Team USA's trainer at the second round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami, then awaited word from the Red Sox. By night's end, he had returned to Fort Myers, replaced on Team USA's roster by Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts.

The original prognosis was that of a strained left oblique, a notoriously slow-healing injury. But Gill recognized Pedroia's actual injury as a strained muscle in the lower portion of his left abdomen, just above the hip.

Pedroia said that he felt pain only once -- on the original swing -- and that he did not anticipate missing much time at all. Opening Day should not be in jeopardy.

"I felt it one time, and then kind of went into straight panic mode and they got me out of there," Pedroia said of the Team USA staff. "They did a good job. They didn't want to send me back with a torn oblique or a torn ab or whatever the heck I've got."

Still, Pedroia's injury was the realization of a Classic player's greatest fear. The most prevalent criticism of the Classic both in 2006 and this year is that it forces players to rush into midseason shape -- to ask their bodies to do things that they're not used to doing in March.

And though Pedroia agreed that it's difficult to work into game shape by early March, he made sure to note that his injury came while taking practice swings.

"I don't know if it's fair to put all of that on the WBC," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said on Sunday. "Could he do that in the cage here, too? Yeah. The way it was handled was pretty good."

Francona lauded the way Team USA's training staff dealt with the injury, telling Pedroia to stop playing immediately and notifying Red Sox trainers, who were on their way back from a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Boston general manager Theo Epstein was on the phone with Team USA staff members within minutes. And Pedroia was back in Fort Myers by nightfall.

"I don't think me getting hurt was because of the WBC," Pedroia said.

Regardless of how it happened, the Red Sox are now faced with the realization that both halves of their starting middle infield are hurt. Pedroia's injury is far less serious than that of shortstop Julio Lugo, who may have a meniscus tear in his right knee and will have arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday.

Lugo, unlike Pedroia, has virtually no chance to be ready for Opening Day.

Yet there is cause for optimism, as well. Pedroia's injury is highly unlikely to keep him out for much time, despite Francona's plan to "err on the side of caution." Opening Day remains more than three weeks away. And Pedroia's ailment is not even as bad as the Sox feared on Saturday, when they dreaded the type of oblique injury that often sidelines players for weeks.

"I was excited when we found out what it was," Francona said. "[Oblique injuries] are hard things to deal with. So this was good news."

Pedroia, the reigning American League MVP, hit .326 last year with 17 home runs and 118 runs scored, winning his first Gold Glove Award at second base. And he did it with the same outward sense of confidence that he displayed while discussing his injury on Sunday. Pedroia joked that fans can to "calm down," -- that he's handling it just fine. Injuries, he said, are simply a fact of baseball.

"When you have a physique like this," Pedroia said, laughing, "something might happen."