FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Newly arrived Dustin Pedroia had just finished speaking with a cluster of reporters in the Red Sox clubhouse Saturday morning when a familiar voice greeted him from the other side of the room.
“Hey Smurf," said Hanley Ramirez.
“Don’t be short-hopping any throws to me," Pedroia shot back with a smile as he went over to embrace Ramirez, Pedroia’s teammate in Double-A Portland 10 years ago. Pedroia, who had been drafted as a shortstop by the Sox in 2004, was moved to second base to make way for Ramirez.
The team’s double-play combination of the future never materialized, as Ramirez was traded that Thanksgiving, 2005, to the Florida Marlins. But in the decade since, each player has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments.
Ramirez was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Marlins in 2006, has been an All-Star three times and won two Silver Sluggers as his league’s best hitter at his position.
Pedroia was the American League Rookie of the Year for the Red Sox in 2007 and the AL MVP in 2008. He has been an All-Star four times, won four Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger.
The biggest difference in their career arcs? Pedroia has two World Series rings and has played his entire career for one team. Ramirez has yet to win a ring and has played for three teams, having been traded to the Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers before signing as a free agent with the Sox this winter.
“The offense, there’s obviously going to be a lot of upgrades," Pedroia said, referring to the addition of Ramirez and free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval. “Our job is to figure out how to hit together."
One of the biggest potential upgrades, in addition to the newcomers, is a healthy Pedroia, whose contributions at the plate have diminished the past two years in the wake of thumb and wrist injuries. Pedroia had surgery last Sept. 11 on the wrist, and the extra recovery time has allowed him to have a normal offseason of weightlifting and conditioning.
"The fact is, Dustin’s had a great offseason," manager John Farrell said. “We shut him down early last year to give him time to get ahead with the rehab after the surgery. He’s in camp full strength ... when we look back, the last couple of years probably had some effect on his overall bottom line.
"A healthy Dustin Pedroia is a strong addition, even above and beyond what he’s done the last couple of years."
Being reminded of any shortcomings, whether due to injury or not, clearly doesn’t sit well with Pedroia, who has made a career of shredding doubters. It sounds like this season will be no exception.
"I like it," he said of the high expectations placed upon him and his teammates. "If you don’t perform well as a team, there are consequences.
"I don’t mind if you guys [media] get on me. It doesn’t bother me. Over the years I don’t really have any feelings anymore, so it doesn’t matter. Nobody’s harder on your team or yourself than you. You got to look in the mirror."
Farrell said the Red Sox have no intentions of reining in Pedroia’s aggressive style, other than to try to eliminate head-first slides into first base from his repertoire. That’s how he tore thumb ligaments in the first game of the 2013 season, and his subsequent wrist issue was related to that injury.
Farrell did say the Sox may try to give Pedroia a little more time off, noting that Brock Holt could play second base on occasion. He insists that the 31-year-old Pedroia is on board with that possibility, though a guy who has played 154 or more games in a season four times in his nine years in the big leagues hardly qualifies as a willing candidate to get more time off.
"I’m ready to play," Pedroia said. "I’m healthy, excited to do what I do."