FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox had a big lead late in last year's opener at Yankee Stadium. Still, Dustin Pedroia slid headfirst trying to beat out a grounder.
The win-at-all-costs second baseman tore a ligament in his left thumb -- and missed just two games the entire season.
"It was the most impressive thing I watched all year. The thumb was totally black," third-base and infield coach Brian Butterfield said Monday. "He didn't want anybody to know about it."
So it's not surprising that Pedroia downplayed how much it bothered him.
"A little bit, but it's fine now," he said. "It's fixed up, man. It's good. It's good to go."
Pedroia had surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament 14 days after the Red Sox won the World Series. He wore a cast for about a month then worked on regaining strength.
He took batting practice Monday, three days before the first official full-squad workout.
His attitude, typically, is upbeat.
"The rehab was great," Pedroia said. "I feel healthy, and there's no setbacks, no restrictions or anything."
The Red Sox won their second title in four years in 2007, when Pedroia was named American League Rookie of the Year.
In 2008, he was the league's MVP, but the Red Sox lost the AL Championship Series despite leading 1-0 in Game 7 through three innings against Tampa Bay.
"That was a huge letdown," Pedroia said. "You don't want that feeling."
He tried to keep that from happening last year, when the Red Sox were in first place through the first 34 games. He was hitting .311 at that point and wasn't about to take time off because of his thumb.
Pedroia did even better in the next 10 games, going 18-for-40 to raise his average to .343.
"The first month and a half he hit with one hand and he played with one hand," Butterfield said, "but he never even blinked. He's so impressive in so many ways, and he showed unbelievable toughness."
Pedroia's average never dropped below .289 for the season, and he ended up at .301 while leading the AL with 724 plate appearances. He tied for second in the AL in hits and was second in the league in fielding percentage among second basemen.
The only games he took off were on June 16 and the regular-season finale Sept. 29. The Red Sox lost both.
Pedroia's injury reduced his power, and he hit just nine homers, the fewest since he had eight in his rookie season. But he compensated by taking shorter swings and hitting more to the opposite field.
"We had half of him, but he fought through it and he still was a highly productive player," Butterfield said. "He just kept playing and kept grinding and didn't flinch once. He never complained and just tried to find every way he could to make his game the most comfortable, because I know early on he was playing with a lot of pain."
Not that Pedroia would admit it.
"You just figure it out," he said. "You just try to get hits, man. That's it."
"We all take ground balls a lot," he said. "Bogey's going to be fine. [Butterfield] will make sure that everybody's on the same page in the infield and our defense. We know what we're doing."
Also Monday, manager John Farrell said Grady Sizemore will be used in left and center field during spring training. The former Cleveland Indian missed the past two seasons with knee and back problems.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is getting the first shot at replacing Jacoby Ellsbury, now with the New York Yankees, in center field. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes are back after sharing time in left field last year.