Red Sox Get Pedroia Back for Thursday Afternoon Game Against Los Angeles Angels

Matt DolloffCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 05:  Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the New York Yankees on May 5, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees 7-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It’s only been since Sunday that Dustin Pedroia last saw playing time for the Red Sox, but to fans it felt like an eternity. Pedroia slightly strained his groin on an awkward swing, and momentarily frightened Red Sox Nation into believing the Red Sox may be without their All-Star right side of the infield for an extended time.

But now, after getting an additional night of rest following reports that he was able to play Wednesday, Pedroia is back to 100 percent and ready to go for Thursday afternoon as the Red Sox take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the rubber match of their three-game series.

After Kevin Youkilis suffered a set-back in his recovery from a sore side, the Red Sox placed him on the disabled list retroactive to May 5. The last thing the Red Sox wanted was for the same to happen to the reigning American League MVP.

Manager Terry Francona sat Pedroia for Tuesday’s game as a precautionary measure to keep him fresh and healthy for today’s afternoon game, even though he was ready to play Wednesday.

“I don’t want to do anything stupid where I’m out a long time,” Pedroia told Ian Browne of “The smartest thing to do would be to take a couple of days and let this thing heal.”

The Red Sox took the first game of the series on the strength of a late-inning rally, led by J.D. Drew’s game-tying home run in the eighth inning and followed by Jason Varitek’s RBI double in the ninth. The win spoiled a strong start for the Angels’ Jered Weaver, who allowed just one earned run in seven innings.

The Angels won the second game, 8-4, after handing Tim Wakefield his worst start of the season thus far. After being staked to a 4-0 lead, Wakefield allowed seven runs in four-and-two-thirds innings, just his second non-quality start of the season. Despite Wakefield's overall success, the Red Sox would like to get more of a spark from the rotation, writes Browne.

Thursday will mark the season debut for the Angels’ Ervin Santana, who is recovering from a sprained MCL in his throwing elbow. After struggling with control issues and inconsistency on the road in his first three major league seasons, Santana broke out in 2008, recording an ERA under 4.00 (3.49) and over 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career.

The key to Santana’s success in 2008 was his career-high 4.55:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But against the Red Sox, he faces about as tough a test as one can get in the first start back from an elbow injury, even without having to deal with Youkilis.

The Red Sox will counter with Brad Penny, who so far has posted a 6.90 ERA, mixing two horrendous outings in between four quality starts. Penny won his last start at Fenway against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing three earned runs in six-and-one-third innings and throwing just 91 pitches.

Penny allowed three runs in six innings against the Angels on April 11 in his first start of 2009 and first career start against them. On paper, this game bodes well for the Red Sox, with Penny pitching well and Santana tough to predict in his first outing since last October in the postseason, in which he also faced Boston.

While the Red Sox patiently await the return of their first baseman and cleanup hitter, they can at least take solace in the fact that other bats are stepping up, and they get their second baseman back today. And knowing Pedroia is not injured is better than almost any individual win.