HOUSTON -- It looks like a knee injury won't be enough to keep Dustin Pedroia out of Boston's American League Division Series lineup.
Pedroia started only 19 of the Red Sox's final 58 regular-season games and made two trips to the disabled list because of inflammation, swelling and soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Even when he returned to the lineup at the beginning of September, the Red Sox did all they could to give the 34-year-old second baseman additional rest.
But on the eve of the AL Division Series, Pedroia insisted he never feared he would be unable to play in the postseason for a Red Sox team that always believed it would get there.
"I knew I would be in a position to help us here in this part of the year," he said, confidently as ever.
Pedroia's presence in the lineup for Game 1 on Thursday against the Astros wasn't always a given, though. As recently as last week, he missed back-to-back games against the Toronto Blue Jays because of a recurrence of the swelling in his knee. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently said the situation will need to be managed for the duration of Pedroia's career.
Asked Tuesday about Pedroia's health, Red Sox manager John Farrell classified him as "healthy enough" -- hardly a confident diagnosis. And although the scheduled days off for travel during the postseason might help Pedroia recover more easily, the Red Sox are unsure enough about his ability to stay on the field that they are seriously considering carrying Deven Marrero on the playoff roster as an extra middle infielder.
"We have got some infield depth that we have to keep because of Pedey and Nunie [versatile infielder Eduardo Nunez, who is dealing with a sprained ligament in his right knee]," Farrell said. "Those are real and tangible things that we have to guard against."
Pedroia, the Red Sox's longest-tenured player, began having more trouble with his knee on April 21 in Baltimore, when Orioles slugger Manny Machado slid hard beyond second base with his spikes up. Pedroia missed only three games but continued to have problems with his knee, eventually succumbing to the disabled list on July 29.
When Pedroia tried to return 10 days later, his knee flared after only one game in which he served as the designated hitter. He went back on the disabled list and missed the next three weeks.
"I mean, it's part of the game," Pedroia said. "Obviously, I play a position where you hit the deck a lot. But mentally, you just try to just block that out, know it's a part of the game, try to come back and do all you can to help your teammates."
Pedroia credited the Red Sox's medical and training staffs for "a lot of work to get me ready." He prefers not to discuss the specifics of his conditioning program but has alluded to modifications that were made between his DL stints to help keep his knee as strong as possible in order to keep him ready for the postseason grind.
And now, that the grind is upon Pedroia, with his knee is about to be tested.
"The last couple of days off have helped him," Farrell said. "We know that this is a little bit of a situation that's ... it's a work in progress. Don't anticipate it really changing. I do know this: He is champing at the bit to begin this series and the postseason, and he'll be out there every available day."