If the Red Sox thought the contract extension they gave Dustin Pedroia would keep him in Boston for the rest of his career, they may have actually underestimated the tenacity that made the diminutive second baseman a star.
"I don't know if I'll be done by then, man. I feel good, dude," he said after signing an eight-year, $110 million contract extension that would keep him in a Red Sox uniform until the age of 38. "Maybe I haven't had my growth spurt, and I'll get taller."
The Red Sox announced their new deal with the 2008 AL MVP before Wednesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. At a table set up in front of the team's dugout, general manager Ben Cherington, manager John Farrell and Pedroia talked about his contributions as a hitter and fielder but also as a leader in the clubhouse.
"He's the straw that stirs the drink," Farrell said. "He sets the tone for our workday. There's a pretty strong sentiment that if you practice at full speed, you're going to become a better player."
Pedroia had been scheduled to receive $10 million next season under his old deal, which also had an option for '15 at $11 million. The new deal starts next season and runs through 2021.
"This place is the only place I've known since I started playing professional baseball, and it's my home," said Pedroia, who was selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2004 draft. "I can't wait to be here and put on that uniform every day. It means a lot to me to be with my teammates and represent the city in the right way."
A 5-foot-8, 165-pound infielder who was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007, when the Red Sox won their second World Series in four seasons, and MVP the next year, Pedroia has grown into his role as a team leader. Cherington said that was the reason the team agreed to the long-term deal — reportedly with a full no-trade clause.
'We're happy he's here'
"This contract does represent an exception for us, and as we told Dustin in spring training, he's absolutely the right person to make an exception for," Cherington said. "It was the right thing to keep him here, hopefully for the rest of his career. I just know we're happy he's here, and there's no one we'd rather have as our second baseman."
As Cherington was speaking, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz walked up and presented Pedroia with second base from the Fenway Park diamond. "This is for you, buddy," he said.
Pedroia is batting .306 this season with 25 doubles, six home runs and 58 RBIs. In his seven-year career — all with the Red Sox — he has a .303 batting average and an on-base percentage of .371.
Cherington said there had been no talk about making Pedroia captain, a role last held by catcher Jason Varitek before he retired in 2012. But that's only because Pedroia doesn't need to have a "C" on his uniform to show that he's a leader.
Rays manager Joe Maddon called Pedroia "a guy that plays the game properly, shows up every night, will be there in the difficult moments, will set the right kind of example."
"He's not the tallest guy in the world, but he's like everyman when it comes to this game," Maddon said. "He's the type of guy that fathers can watch the game with their kid and say, 'You can be Dustin Pedroia. Regardless of how big you are or not, just play with that type of verb intensity and enthusiasm.' It's good for the Red Sox. It's going to make it that much more difficult for us as far as competition."
The deal eliminates one uncertainty for a team that could see centre fielder Jacoby Ellsbury become a free agent after the season. Of the position players on the 2007 championship team, only Pedroia, Ellsbury and Ortiz remain.
"I've come up with some guys that left. There's always that doubt," Pedroia said. "Always, in my heart, I felt like I would always play every game for the Red Sox. Just being here right now, this happening, it's pretty special to me and my family."