BOSTON -- When it appeared inevitable that the Red Sox would trade Jon Lester, teammate Dustin Pedroia said he hoped when he walked into the clubhouse on Friday, the club’s left-handed ace would be sitting at his locker.
He won’t be.
Lester, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes, was traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of a flurry of deadline moves by the Red Sox. Pitcher John Lackey was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals, Andrew Miller was shipped to the Baltimore Orioles, and shortstop Stephen Drew was traded to the New York Yankees.
So when Pedroia arrives Friday afternoon at Fenway Park in preparation for a three-game set with the Yankees this weekend, there will be some new faces in the clubhouse and some notable absences. Pedroia, who is now the lone homegrown talent remaining to win two World Series for the Red Sox, understands baseball is a business, but losing a quality teammate, pitcher and friend in Lester was a little tough to handle for the veteran second baseman.
“It sucks. The last three years, two of the teams have had major changes,” Pedroia told ESPNBoston.com Thursday night. “It’s tough, man. You play with the guys and they’re your family. It’s a pretty tough business right now.”
While Pedroia and his wife, Kelli, arrived at Fenway to attend Clay Buchholz’s charity event at nearby Lucky Strike Lanes/Jillian’s, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was inside the ballpark holding a press conference to discuss the day’s dealings.
Because it’s now clear the team is focused on the 2015 season and beyond, the next two months will serve as a virtual tryout for younger players, especially the pitching staff, while Cherington and manager John Farrell get a head start on next season.
“I think we’re in better position than we were a week ago, but certainly not done,” Cherington said. “Obviously, now that the deadline has passed there’s likely a lot less activity as far as roster moves the rest of the way, other than I’m sure at some point some young players will come up. Hopefully we’ve done things to get a head start on the offseason, address some things, but I think, and I know John feels the same way, we’ve got 54 games left. These are now the most important 54 games of our season because we’ve got a lot to find out.
“We have new players that we want to make sure are comfortable and get acclimated to Boston and comfortable at the ballpark and everything that comes along with Boston. We’ve got young players who are still developing and need to continue to improve and develop, we need to focus on that. And we need to start building a team again so a lot of the guys that are now on this roster will more than likely be on the roster next April, so we’ve got to start building a team that can win. So I think the next 54 games are really important toward that. But of course, there’ll be more work to do this offseason too.”
But Pedroia does not want to focus on 2015. He wants to focus on the New York Yankees and the rest of the 2014 season. He hopes his teammates feel the same way.
“I’m showing up to win every day,” he said. “It doesn’t change the way the guys should think or play the game. My focus, and our team’s focus, should be show up to win. I don’t like looking ahead to other things.”
While Pedroia has been a mainstay at second base for the Red Sox, the left side of the infield has seen many changes. With Drew gone, Xander Bogaerts will return to shortstop and Will Middlebrooks will be activated from the disabled list and play third. If Middlebrooks and Bogaerts can produce the way the club has always believed they could, it could be the start of some consistency in the infield.
Pedroia always plays with emotion. This week, the business aspect of the game made him show a bit more off the field than he normally does.
“The more you play you understand the business side of the game, but it’s still hard,” Pedroia said. “You just don’t work together, you’re with each other more than you are with your family, so it’s a tough time.”
On Thursday, Red Sox security escorted Pedroia across the street to the charity event, and as he sat in a golf cart, he said, “I don’t know what else to say.”