The condition for Dustin Pedroia's family vacation with sidekick Andre Ethier and his family was that they had to have proper workout facilities. Ethier found a villa in Virgin Gorda with a fully-equipped weight room and tennis courts (Pedroia's original sport and the source of his astounding hand-eye coordination), and close to everything Pedroia and Ethier use every day in Arizona.
Some families go to Virgin Gorda to swim, sail and relax. "It was awesome," Pedroia says, "but I couldn't take time off from trying to put the Red Sox back where they belong."
So Kelli (and 3-month-old Dylan) Pedroia and Maggie (and 14-month-old Dreson) Ethier had to tolerate their maniacal husbands' obsessive conditioning routines. "We want to change things in baseball," Pedroia says with a laugh. "Seriously, last season was unacceptable. I don't want to go through that again."
That, of course, was 95 wins, a division series loss to the Angels, and the experience of watching the Yankees roll on to the World Series.
And, here on the first of December, there is an extra incentive for the 2008 MVP. "They've asked me if I think I could play shortstop," Pedroia says. "They've put it out there and I've told them I'm all for it. I can do it. I can't wait for Tito [Terry Francona] to call me and ask, 'Can you do it?' I can do it. I really want to do it."
Pedroia was an all-American shortstop at Arizona State, and takes ground balls at the position during the season. The staff has thrown it out to him, realizing that it might be easier to sign or acquire an everyday, defensive second baseman like Orlando Hudson than a shortstop. There is some hesitation about Marco Scutaro, between the plantar fasciitis that bothered him late in the season and the possibility of giving up a first-round draft pick to sign him. Although one general manager suggested that if the Blue Jays offer Scutaro arbitration, they could be stuck with $6M in arbitration at shortstop in addition to Alex Gonzalez and John McDonald. There are voices in the Red Sox organization that believe that another possibility is Brandon Phillips, who was a shortstop in the Montreal and Cleveland organizations and hit 20 homers while playing second base for the Reds last season.
"One thing they know is that I will catch the ball," Pedroia says. Which, except for the final month and a half with Gonzalez, was not the case in 2009. You don't have to turn to John Dewan's Fielding Bible to know that shortstop was Boston's black hole until the purchase of Gonzalez. The only pitcher who showed his emotions was Brad Penny, but it was obvious for most of the season that ground balls hit to the left side of the infield were objects of fear and loathing by the pitching staff.
When Pedroia signed in 2004, he played shortstop for 42 games in the South Atlantic and Florida State leagues and did not make an error. He moved to second base in 2005 at Portland because of Hanley Ramirez, but still played some short there and in Pawtucket in 2005 and 2006. In 184 games at short in the minors he made just seven errors.
Francona played him some games at shortstop in spring training in 2006 and was unimpressed.
"Look," Pedroia says, "I was 20 pounds heavier. I tried to get big and it was a disaster. I know it. It's all about quickness, agility and flexibility, and I know it."
The last couple of winters, Pedroia and Ethier had worked out at Athletes Performance Institute, but when that moved from Tempe to North Scottsdale, Ariz., the former Arizona State teammates decided to train at former ASU (and NFL) wide receiver Keith Poole's Training Zone in Chandler. "I've really worked hard on speed, agility and flexibility as well as all the strength, conditioning and endurance programs," Pedroia says. "It's really helping me. I have much more quickness and speed than I ever had. Maybe there is some question about my arm strength, but I'm working on that. I can do it. I hope it happens."
If the Red Sox did end up trying Pedroia at short, it probably wouldn't be a career move, as 19-year-old prospect Jose Iglesias showed enough in the Arizona Fall League to put him on the radar for the 2012 season, if not 2011.
For now, Pedroia hasn't been told that he will make the move. The Red Sox, like many teams, have dabbled in several areas. As has been reported, they have tried to gauge other teams' interest in Mike Lowell, which is why they have talked to the agents for Adrian Beltre and Mark DeRosa, as well as others. They are trying to sign either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, and have explored other possibilities. They have not devoted much time to Roy Halladay, as the chances of trading Clay Buchholz and Casey Kelly are, at best, minimal.
"When the idea of moving back to shortstop was floated to me, I welcomed it," Pedroia says. "I'm excited. Tell Derek [Jeter] to enjoy the gold glove and silver slugger awards while he can. Obviously, I'm not serious about the fun I have with Derek, but I'm never stopping believing in the goal. I believe I can play shortstop and help get the Red Sox back where they belong."
Peter Gammons serves as a studio analyst on Baseball Tonight and Baseball Today. Gammons has been a senior writer for ESPN The Mag since December 1999 and contributes to ESPN.com and ESPNBoston.com.