This injury truly hurts the most
SAN FRANCISCO — The baseball god can bring you to your knees. Or put you on crutches. Just like that.
Has any ballplayer ever crashed to Earth with more shock and fury than Dustin Pedroia? Thursday night, the little guy enjoyed a career night at Coors Field in Denver. He hit three homers, went 5 for 5 with a walk, and reminded us that he is the half-pint Braveheart of the Boston baseball franchise.
Friday night, he broke his foot when one of his vicious swings drilled a hardball into his left instep.
“It just sucks,’’ said Pedroia, leaning on metal crutches as he stood in front of his locker in the visitors clubhouse at AT&T Park yesterday. “I’m upset. It’s pretty tough. I’ll try and get back in there and heal as fast as possible.’’
No one knows how long Pedroia will be sidelined. He has had X-rays, an MRI, and a CT scan, and he’ll undergo more tests when he is inspected by doctors in Boston tomorrow. The Sox have not ruled out surgery.
It’s a potentially devastating blow to the ball club’s playoff chances for 2010. More and more, this is looking like one of those years when there might be too many injuries to overcome. The Sox have already been forced to play without Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, and Josh Beckett for most of the season. Yesterday, Clay Buchholz hyperextended his knee in the second inning and had to leave the game. Now Pedroia is on the shelf as the All-Star break approaches.
The Sox did a nice job recovering from a brutal start and went into last night’s game with the fifth-best record in baseball, but they are going to miss Pedroia more than Ellsbury, Cameron, or Beckett.
Pedroia was MVP of the American League in 2008. He is the undisputed leader of the team. The Sox are going to miss his bat, his glove, and his presence.
“I’m disappointed,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “But there’s nothing I can do. The level of my disappointment is not going to make him heal quicker.
“The first thing he said today was, ‘Who’s going to play second?’ He’s as legit a player and a person as you’re ever going to find. He’s so upset, because he knows he helps us win. So we’ve got to find a way to win.
“You can’t replace Pedey. That’s why he’s Pedey. But we’ll do what we always do — look at the lineup, see who’s pitching, and tell guys the night before who’s going to play.’’
“We’ll be fine,’’ said the diminutive second baseman. “We’ll find ways to win. We’ve got a lot of great players on our team.’’
Pedroia’s plight is a reminder of how fast things can change.
In the middle of the afternoon Friday, he was bounding around the near-empty Red Sox dugout at AT&T, still flexing his muscles from Thursday’s tour-de-force at Coors. He was totally geeked-up, considering the Sox hadn’t gotten to their San Francisco hotel until 4 a.m. A guy doesn’t need Red Bull after a three-homer, 5-for-5 Rocky Mountain High night.
“That ballpark is a joke,’’ said Pedroia. “I can’t imagine what it must have been like before they kept the balls in the humidor.’’
Spotting NESN’s Don Orsillo, Pedroia said, “How many times did you say ‘laser show’ last night? You should start calling it the ‘rocket blasting show.’ ’’
I asked him if he’d encountered the infamous security guard at Coors — the man who tried to keep him out of the clubhouse before Game 3 of the 2007 World Series.
“I’m not sure if that guy is still there or not,’’ Pedroia said with a laugh. “But everybody there was very nice to me this time.’’
Some of us had a hard time believing he’d never hit three homers in a game. If a guy can hit three homers in a big league game, he must have done it in Little League or high school. I told him I’d seen kids do it in Newton.
“No offense,’’ he said. “But it’s different when you grow up playing in California. We’ve got good arms out there.’’
A couple of hours later, Pedroia’s world changed when he swung at a 3-and-1 Jonathan Sanchez pitch and hammered it off his foot.
“I got it pretty good,’’ said Pedroia. “Barrelled it up.’’
Francona ran out to talk to Pedroia after he was struck by the ball. They agreed it was OK for Pedroia to stay at the plate. He walked on the 3-and-2 pitch.
And we mean walked. By the time Pedroia staggered to first base, it was obvious he had to come out of the game.
Looking back, it was a bad idea to stay in the game for the 3-and-2 pitch. Suppose Pedroia had hit a grounder to short and tried to run out of the box on his broken foot?
“It could have been ugly,’’ he offered.
It was ugly. And it was depressing to see Pedroia on crutches, wearing a black boot on his left foot.
No more laser show. The heartlight of the Red Sox has been turned off.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.