Dustin Pedroia has gone through this before. The Red Sox have gone through this before. The player has played through pain, and his team has won. The Sox have been victorious in 419 games and lost 313 with Pedroia in lineup since the beginning 2007. Many of those victories have come with the second baseman experiencing some sort of ache or pain.
But that doesn't make their current predicament sting any less.
Last year in early June, it was a knee injury. Pedroia managed it and life went on.
The year before he first had a knee issue, and, eventually, a broken foot.
There was an oblique injury during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In '08 he had a thumb problem. He ended up winning the American League MVP. The year before was a cracked hamate bone. That was handled well enough that he won both the AL Rookie of the Year and World Series.
Now we have this thumb injury.
Pedroia's day started with an MRI, which was diagnosed by the Red Sox medical team before being shipped to Arizona where Dr. Donald Sheridan took a look. It was determined that the second baseman has a small tear in his right thumb's adductor muscle. It's the same muscle Kevin Youkilis injured in '10 before undergoing surgery, but that was much more severe due to a ligament pulled off a bone. With Pedroia, there is no problems with the ligaments or tendons.
While waiting for the results, he roamed around the clubhouse and field, wearing a small, white splint around his thumb.
"I don't know anything, yet," he told anxious reporters before the game. "I'll page you guys when I find out."
By the time the Red Sox had beaten the Tigers, 6-3, he had discovered at least some of his fate. But before disclosing what was what, Pedroia swung by to meet with Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, Sox assistant GM Brian O'Halloran and Bobby Valentine in the manager's office one last time to lock in on the plan heading into Wednesday.
When he emerged and assumed the position in front of his locker, ready to answer what would be 3 minutes and 43 seconds worth of questions, Pedroia explained his situation.
"I'm optimistic," he said when asked if there was a chance there could be no time on the disabled list. "We're still talking about it. Hopefully the swelling and stuff goes down and I won't miss that much time." He later added when asked about what would need to be displayed Wednesday to convince the team he was suitable for action, "I don't have to show them anything. I've played with injuries before. It's just a matter of me being able to swing with a brace on it or something. So I'm going to go get something made, see how it feels and if I can't do it then I think it's 3-4 weeks. Hopefully it's not that."
So, what should we make of this?
WHAT IT MEANS FOR PEDROIA
When Pedroia says "I've played with injuries before" there is a whole lot of truth behind it. As mentioned before, almost every year of his six-year big league career, he has had to deal with something. If there's a slump, usually the cause can be attributed to an injury.
On June 12, 2008 Pedroia's batting average bottomed out at .260. It was because he had hurt his thumb (with no correlation with this injury).
June 9, 2010, he saw his average dip to .248. That was due to a knee problem.
His low point last season came on June 4, when Pedroia's batting average fell to .239. It was right before he would be diagnosed with a bruised knee.
The point is that almost every year there has been an issue, and every year (with the exception of the one he had a screw inserted in his foot) he ends up with the numbers. Perhaps the best example of all was '11, when on some occasions he could actually feel the hardware inserted in his left foot dig into his flesh. Yet Pedroia still managed to finish with one of his best all-around seasons, hitting .307 with 25 homers and and .861 OPS.
So with the question regarding Pedroia's resolve answered, what has to be surfaced is any doubts in regard to his patience. A window was opened for the infielder to play in '10 despite the usual recovery time for returning from his broken navicular bone was approximately five weeks longer than the time he took before coming back. He jumped through that window and paid the price. That can't happen again.
"There's some risk just like with any injury, there's a risk that it could worsen," Cherington said. "And that's our job and Dustin's job to make sure that we're minimizing that risk as much as possible before he gets back out there."
WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE RED SOX
Since '07, the Red Sox are 71-56 without Pedroia in the lineup. Tuesday night, they became the first team since Sept. 2, 2010 to manage 10 or more hits against Justin Verlander without their starting second baseman. Life can go on … for a while.
The longest stretch the Sox have gone without Pedroia was during the hiatus due to the broken foot. It was 87 games and a 45-42 record. It was also a warning regarding exactly how important their All-Star was. Bill Hall, Yamaico Navarro, Jed Lowrie and Eric Patterson couldn't make up the difference in the long haul.
So now while it is unknown how much this haul is going to be, it is worth taking a look at viable options if Pedroia isn't available.
There's Tuesday night's starter, Nick Punto. The veteran infielder managed just his sixth hit of the season, Tuesday, boosting his average to .140. But Punto's value has yet to be recognized in these parts. Some of it was uncovered against the Tigers, with the infielder showing good range and instincts at the position. But what should be remembered is that this was the starting second baseman for the world champions last season, hitting .278 in 63 games with the Cardinals.
Then we have the possibility of getting a taste of the Jose Iglesias phenomenon. According to a source, the shortstop has missed the last five games with Triple-A Pawtucket due to a stiff lower back, which might throw the timing of such a promotion off. But the ailment doesn't figure to be a long-term issue, and Iglesias might be ready to go within the next few days if need be.
If Iglesias is recalled, that might mean a temporary return to second base for starting shortstop Mike Aviles. Aviles told WEEI.com prior to Tuesday night's game that nobody had asked him about such a switch, but he wouldn't stand in their way.
"Nobody has talked to me, but I'm always prepared to play," he said. "That's the bottom line, playing baseball and coming ready to play every day. Nobody has said anything to me and I don't know what's going to happen. I'm just ready to play wherever I'm told to play.
I've never really been assigned a position, to tell you the truth. Even in '08 (when he was Kansas City's everyday shortstop for a good chunk of the season) I played a little bit at second, also. In 2008 I didn't start as a shortstop, I was playing second base. We'll just have to see how it goes. Whatever happens, happens."
Aviles admits, such a switch wouldn't be ideal. But in this case, ideal might not be an option.
"I would like to stay [at shortstop], but if what's best for the team isn't necessarily that, then so be it," he said. "Ultimately that's what it comes down to, what's going to be in the best interest of the team to win games. I can deal with anything as long as we're winning games. I just want to win a championship. That's my bottom line goal, and I know that's what everybody else's goal is here. However we can make it happen, then we'll do it and I'll do it. I'll go about my business as a professional as I always have."