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Pedroia making strides

Early arrival eager to get started again

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 12, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — He broke his left foot, tried in vain to make a comeback, had surgery, and then went through a long and arduous rehabilitation.

The last seven months have been trying ones for Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the toughest challenge of his career.

Some athletes might be humbled by such an experience, or at least step back and gain perspective on how fleeting and fragile success can be.

Then there’s Pedroia.

He arrived at spring training yesterday and took his turn in the batting cage. After dropping down two bunts, Pedroia lined a ball hard up the middle.

“Woooooooo!’’ he shouted. “Did you see that?’’

Break out the earplugs, Pedey is back.

Confidence clearly will not be an issue as Pedroia returns. Nor will a broken navicular bone that is held together by a screw, or so he claims. During an eight-minute interview with reporters, Pedroia said he felt “great’’ seven times.

The Red Sox will be cautious with their All-Star spark plug nonetheless. Pedroia already has been excused from next week’s conditioning test because it includes a 300-yard shuttle run. Manager Terry Francona also plans to restrict how often Pedroia plays during the exhibition season.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,’’ Pedroia said. “[But] whatever they have planned for me, I’m ready to do.’’

Pedroia did acknowledge it took longer than expected for him to reach the point where he was free of discomfort.

“Some of the things I was trying to do weren’t the right things to do. But we found a way to make me feel strong and I feel great right now,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to get everything working together. If one part of my leg isn’t firing, it’s going to affect my foot. We kind of figured out what my problem was. The last three weeks I’ve felt great.’’

He has since taken grounders, turned double plays, and run the bases. The only activity not allowed is distance running.

“I’ve done everything. I’m ready to go,’’ Pedroia said. “My foot’s repaired . . . There’s not going to be any setbacks.’’

The injury did force Pedroia to learn the value of patience. After his aborted comeback, the only solution was surgery and months in a cast.

“It’s been tough. I try and set little goals, stuff like that. The other day was my last workout and I was kind of excited,’’ he said. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work. I’m ready for it to show on the field.’’

There will be one constant reminder of what he went through. Pedroia was injured when he fouled a ball off his foot, and to guard against that happening again he will wear a custom-made guard that wraps around his spikes. He will wear it this season and possibly for the remainder of his career.

Pedroia and Clay Buchholz were the latest prominent players to arrive in camp ahead of schedule, joining Daniel Bard, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonathan Papelbon, and Kevin Youkilis.

“We’re excited,’’ Pedroia said. “I talked to Adrian a little bit, getting to know him. Everyone is really excited; we’re fired up. It’s going to be fun.’’

Expectations are soaring for this group given the additions made over the winter. For veteran Red Sox, that is nothing new.

“They’re high every year,’’ Pedroia said. “There’s not a year you come into camp and your goal isn’t to win the World Series. If it’s not, then you’re reevaluating the organization. We want to win; we want to win right now. Not just this year, but every year.’’

One player who has yet to arrive is Carl Crawford, who is finishing up his offseason workouts in Houston. The new left fielder told USA Today he was excited to play with Pedroia, whom he called a “little firecracker.’’

Pedroia and Crawford are former workout partners in Arizona.

“I put some whuppings on him in ping-pong and talked a lot of trash to him,’’ Pedroia said. “I’m glad he’s on our team. It’s a pain in the butt playing against him. He’s running wild. It’s going to be fun having him on our side.’’

Same old Pedroia. But he did look a little different in one respect. He usually cuts his thinning hair close to the scalp but arrived in camp with what for him was a full head of hair along with some sculpted sideburns.

“Sick, huh?’’ he said. “I think it looks solid. My wife likes it.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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