Pedroia's passion is postseason ball
Sox's diminutive second baseman a true throwback player
ANAHEIM -- For the first time in Dustin Pedroia's Major League career, there won't be any big trophy announcements in November. The diminutive second baseman was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2007, then the AL Most Valuable Player last year.
If you want the truth, Pedroia isn't about receiving accolades or finding extra space in his trophy case. What truly excites him is October, when every pitch suddenly takes on the intensity that he plays with all season.
For the third time in his three-year career, Pedroia is ready to take that stage. His latest run at the postseason starts Thursday night in Anaheim, where the Red Sox take on the Angels in Game 1 of this AL Division Series.
While some players look at this time of year as pressure, the 26-year-old Pedroia views it as the reason he loves the game so much.
"It's fun. That's why we work so hard during the season, to get an opportunity to play in the postseason," said Pedroia. "So I think our biggest thing is to go out and have fun. You've got to win -- otherwise you go home."
In 2007, Pedroia helped fuel the Red Sox to a World Series championship. Because he achieved that peak at the end of his rookie season, he now admits that maybe he thought that was just how it was supposed to be.
"A little bit," Pedroia said. "Last year was definitely tough, the way we lost, coming one game away from going to the World Series again. Hopefully this year we don't have those feelings."
That burning feeling of disappointment after the 3-1 loss to the Rays in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series at Tropicana Field is one that kept Pedroia motivated throughout last winter.
"Yeah, for sure," said Pedroia. "There's a lot of things to be motivated by. There's a lot of guys on this team that work very hard. Our main goal is to win a World Series. We have that chance."
You can be sure that nobody will push harder for it than Pedroia.
"He's a little bit of a throwback player," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "He seems to grind out every at-bat. I think he played in the sandpit a lot when he was a kid, because he always likes to be dirty. He comes up with big hits and big plays all the time. I think there's a reason he was voted MVP. A lot of people appreciate the way he plays."
Victor Martinez, Boston's prized switch-hitting acquisition, can appreciate Pedroia now. But back when he was on the other side, particularly when the Indians lost to the Red Sox in a seven-game ALCS in 2007, Martinez found Pedroia a little annoying.
"He was a pain, playing against him," Martinez said. "When I was catching, I was like, 'Arrggggh, here comes this guy again.' The good thing for me is I have all these guys on my side now and it makes it a lot easier."
It's just that Martinez knows that nothing has come easy for Pedroia in his career. The media guide lists him at 5-foot-9, but anyone who spends any time in the Boston clubhouse knows that Pedroia is, at minimum, two or three inches shorter than that. To become a premier player, Pedroia has had to rely a lot on his work ethic, which is pretty much a 12-month thing.
"Man, just to see the way he goes about his business and the desire he has to play the game is amazing," said Martinez. "You know what it shows everybody? That height or weight or whatever, it doesn't mean anything about how you play this game. You just need to have the fire and the desire to play the game like he does. He's great, man. Just watching him play, it makes you go out there and keep playing hard like he does every day."
Coming off his MVP season, Pedroia found things a little more difficult this season. Pitchers became a lot more careful, even working around him at times. If the numbers weren't quite the same as last year, they were pretty close.
Pedroia hit .296, scored 115 runs, belted 48 doubles, smacked 15 homers and stole 20 bases.
"I was just trying to get on base and score runs, that's my job. I did that," Pedroia said. "It was a little bit different in that I walked a lot more. I got pitched a little bit differently. Other than that, same stuff. I just didn't try to do too much. I just tried to get on base, hit doubles and score runs. That's my job."
Were the Red Sox pleasantly surprised Pedroia maintained the high level of play he established over his first two award-winning seasons? Not really.
"I think we expected that. I think the organization feels like that is the type of player he is," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I know there were times when I know he felt frustrated -- like he wanted to do more. And again, that is the type of player that he is. But barring injury, you're going to see those types of years for a long time. He wills himself to be on the winning side, which we respect that a lot."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.