Pedroia, Utley embrace elder role for Red Sox, Dodgers
BOSTON (AP) — Don’t look for Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley to be turning any double plays during this World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
But the presence of both has already had an impact on the clubhouses of the two teams looking to add to their already rich trophy cases.
With 10 All-Star appearances and three championship rings between them, Pedroia and Utley are two of the premier second basemen of their generation, each earning revered status that exceeds their stats and awards.
Pedroia has spent his entire career in Boston, winning championships with the Red Sox in 2007 and 2013. Utley started his career in Philadelphia and spurred the Phillies team that won it all in 2008.
But with a knee injury sidelining Pedroia and age slowing down Utley as he approaches 40, they have embraced the unfamiliar role of baseball elder this time around.
“I don’t think either one of us will be getting any at-bats in this Series. So, we’re similar in that way,” Utley joked on Monday.
This season has been a final lap for Utley, who in July announced his plans to retire at the end of his 16th season.
He appeared in 87 games during the regular season but after hitting just .213 with one home run and 14 RBIs, didn’t make either of manager Dave Roberts’ NL Division Series or NL Championship Series rosters. He’s still soaked in every moment of the run so far.
“This is the reason I wanted to play this year, was to get to this point,” Utley said. “I’m excited for the opportunity that we have. ... Dustin, I know his teammates respect him and look up to him. From what I hear he’s a good motivator and a guy you definitely want on your team.”
Dodgers third baseman David Freese said Utley commands respect.
“He just does so much for this group,” Freese said. “The guy just wants to win. ... I view him differently than other guys.”
Currently in his 13th season, the 35-year-old Pedroia has no plans of hanging up his cleats. That’s despite playing just three games in 2018 because of a left knee injury that has dogged him since he was spiked by Manny Machado on a late slide last year.
He had surgery on the knee in the offseason but had an additional arthroscopic surgery while rehabbing in Arizona in July to clean up scar tissue. He had two initial procedures on the knee last October.
“It’s hard not playing, but to be honest with you I’m enjoying this more than the other trips in years past,” Pedroia said. “It stinks not being able to play with them and be there with them, but I’m not upset about not playing because of the way they’re approaching the year.”
His rehabilitation process was slow, though the four-time All-Star returned to action in May for three games. But he went just 1 for 11 with two walks before going on the disabled list again and eventually being shut down in September.
Even before his season ended, Pedroia remained a presence in Boston’s clubhouse as it rolled up a franchise-record 108 regular-season wins.
He texted teammates after big wins and during hitting slumps. He also called the clubhouse and was put on speakerphone to offer words of encouragement. He’s been on the field this week as the Red Sox prepared for Game 1 on Tuesday night.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” infielder Brock Holt said. “He’s been here the longest. He’s won two World Series. So to have him here — it’s always better with him here than when he’s gone.”
That opinion of Pedroia is shared by Boston’s opponent.
“He set the tone for this organization,” Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill said.
Pedroia believes his words still have an impact.
“I hope I still do,” he said. “If not, they’re asking me a lot of questions wasting my damn time.”
AP Sports Writers Ben Walker and Jimmy Golen contributed to this report.
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