Pedroia's slump? Of course, it's the thumb

CHICAGO -- Dustin Pedroia did not get the ball out of the infield in five at-bats Saturday. He is hitless for Chicago (0-for-9), and just 6-for-45 (.133) since electing to play with a torn muscle in his right thumb.

“He says the thumb is a nonissue,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said. “There’s no swelling.’’

But of course the thumb is an issue, just not in the sense that the Red Sox second baseman is impeded physically from playing, which Pedroia insists is the case.

Teammate Adrian Gonzalez offered a succinct explanation of how the thumb has impacted Pedroia at the plate.

“You have to understand that when something tweaks your swing -- in his case, his thumb -- you create a bad habit,’’ Gonzalez said. “When he came back, it was probably in the back of his mind that he doesn’t want to get jammed. So he starts pulling off balls. And then you tell yourself, ‘Don’t pull off,’ and you start letting the ball get too deep. You start floating too much. Those things go back and forth.

“Sometimes people don’t get this, they think we need to get two hits, a hit every game. I wish it was like that. I wish I was consistent as an everyday thing. But it’s not the way baseball is. Sometimes you hit the ball well and get no hits but you feel great. Sometimes you feel like crap and get hits.’’

How does Pedroia come out of this slump?

“Swing and just play,’’ Gonzalez said. “He’s out hitting early a lot of days. Just swing the bat. That’s the only way. There’s no real method to it. If there was, everybody would do it and nobody would go into slumps.’’

Pedroia grounded out four times and popped to second Saturday night. But he still made a meaningful contribution to the team’s win, turning an unassisted double play with a diving catch of Starlin Castro’s first-inning liner.

"Dustin, I never think oif him as scuffling,'' Valentine said. "He thinks he’s scuffling now. I guess the statistics show it, but as he has said in the past, when he's out there he's a force on our team. The other team knows he’s there. They have to work his at-bats when he comes up to the plate. He's going to do something good.

"I've heard he's had some spells in the past where he wasn’t real hot and at the end of the year he’s in the MVP voting. I love seeing him play. He’s out in front of breaking balls. We know that, he knows that, and he’s just missing his pitch. He got that 3-and-1 pitch ... inexplicable. But there are times he's going to hit it.''