FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox have named their Opening Day starter ... at second base.
With Dustin Pedroia bound for the disabled list while he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery, Eduardo Nunez will play second base in three weeks when the season begins March 29 against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, manager Alex Cora announced Thursday.
It had been presumed that Nunez, who plays every infield position and gave the Red Sox's offense a boost last summer, would fill in at second base until Pedroia returns, likely in late April or May. But Nunez also hadn't played in a Grapefruit League game until Thursday, a delay caused by both his own recovery from a knee injury and the fact that he didn't re-sign with the Red Sox until Feb. 18.
Nunez, 30, batted .321 with eight homers and an .892 OPS in 38 games last season after being acquired in a July trade with the San Francisco Giants. With Nunez in the lineup, the Red Sox averaged 5.03 runs per game; without him, they scored 4.79 runs per game.
But Nunez sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last September, leaving his status for the playoffs in question. He started Game 1 of the division series against Houston but had to be carried off the field in the first inning when his knee gave out again.
"We had to prepare for two different teams in a sense -- one with Eduardo, one without him," said Cora, then the Astros' bench coach. "He was a different dynamic. He brought energy. He was dangerous at the plate, and the baserunning part of it, he was a factor. You had to be ready from pitch one, and that makes a difference."
Pedroia, meanwhile, has progressed to taking batting practice with his teammates. Assuming his daily workouts continue on schedule, he could begin a running program next week but isn't expected to play in so much as a minor league game until after spring training ends.
"The louder he is, the better he feels, and he's been very loud the last few days," Cora said. "So, that's a good sign."