FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As much as Dustin Pedroia believed he was going to be fine, there was only one true way to test it in his first game back with the Red Sox after bowing out of the World Baseball Classic with a lower left abdominal strain.

The test could not come in Pedroia's first at-bat Friday against the Pirates, when he was merely trying to tap a grounder somewhere to drive Jacoby Ellsbury home from third. In fact, Pedroia succeeded in that mission with a grounder to short.

It was in Pedroia's second and final at-bat that he knew he needed some confirmation on where he was at. So Pedroia aired it out with some of his typically ferocious swings.

"I swing hard all the time, so I wanted to make sure everything was fine," said Pedroia, who went 1-for-2 with an RBI in his first Grapefruit League game since March 1.

And?

"I fouled a couple of balls off," said Pedroia. "I swung hard and I felt OK. And then I ended up hitting it [down the third-base line for an infield single], and then running I felt fine. That's it. It was a good day. I'm glad to get out there and hopefully it will continue to get better."

When Pedroia feels better, so do the Red Sox. He is their sparkplug, not to mention the American League's reigning Most Valuable Player.

This is why there was concern throughout Red Sox Nation when Pedroia, who hardly complains of pain, pulled out of the Classic with what was first thought to be an oblique injury.

Fortunately for the Red Sox and Pedroia, the prognosis was far more encouraging and he was back in the lineup in short order.

"I've played through injuries before. As players, you know your body," said Pedroia. "Everyday players, I mean, we get beat up a lot. I just didn't want to go out there and do something to hurt it even worse at the time that it happened. The Red Sox and the [World Baseball Classic], they did a great job of stopping me at the time. I would have run out there and played."

Pedroia will spend Saturday at City of Palms Park taking batting practice and partaking in other drills rather than taking the three-hour bus ride to Jupiter to face the Marlins. But he expects to be back in the lineup on Sunday, when the Red Sox are home against the Phillies.

"I felt good," said Pedroia. "I think the biggest thing is to see how it feels tomorrow. Hopefully I'm not sore or anything like that. I definitely want to take it slow. I've been doing all my treatment stuff. It was good to get back on the field and get a couple of at-bats and get back in the game rhythm."

Though Pedroia will be glad to again suit up for the Red Sox for Sunday's game, he is still disappointed that he won't be able to take the field that night for Team USA in a semifinal match against teammate Daisuke Matsuzaka and Japan.

"I wish I was there and could be a part of it with those guys," Pedroia said. "It was an unbelievable experience getting a chance to play with all those guys. I'll definitely be rooting hard for them. I'll shoot them a text message, a little motivational speech for 'em. I'll get 'em going."

Would he offer his Team USA friends any advice for how to hit against Matsuzaka?

"Daisuke is lucky I'm not there," quipped Pedroia. "I'd hit a line drive right off his back, and you guys can put that in your paper. I would hit him right in his back. He better hope the Red Sox don't trade him."

Of course, a chirpy Pedroia -- as everyone around the Red Sox knows -- signals a healthy Pedroia.