"When you see me," said the Red Sox second baseman by phone last night, "you will definitely see a change."
His metamorphosis stretches far beyond a strut befitting a potential new big league starter. It encompasses much more than being a newlywed, having been married in November.
Pedroia's most visible transformation results from 11 weeks of diligence, all of which revolves around the 23-year-old's desire to avoid the difficulties that cropped up far too many times throughout the 2006 campaign.
"Right now, I'm about 172 (pounds). Last year, I was 195 at the beginning of camp," said the 5-foot-8 Pedroia. "Anytime you get opportunity like (potentially starting), you're not going to let it go by. I'm just excited to get there. I haven't been this excited in my whole life. I just want to get to spring training and let out all the hard work I have put in. I can't wait for it."
Looking back on last season remains bittersweet for Pedroia. On one hand, he did make it the major leagues, called up by the Red Sox Aug. 22 from Triple-A Pawtucket. But the memories of what transpired during his first taste of the bigs are what drove him throughout the offseason.
First came the weight gain, which was partially attributed to a knee injury suffered in Pawtucket at the end of the '05 season. Then, on March 3, Pedroia strained his left shoulder while swinging and missing, keeping him out of the remainder of spring training. The problems continued to mount early in his Triple-A schedule, hitting .255 and .263, respectively, in the season's first two months.
Pedroia finally appeared to right his ship by the time June came around, hitting over .300 until the call came from the big club to join Boston on its season-sinking road trip in California. That's when he was again mired with problems.
The former Arizona State University shortstop notched just six hits in his first 49 major league at-bats (.122), leading to questions regarding the organization's faith in whether he is its second baseman of the future.
"I learned a lot," said Pedroia of his initiation to the majors. "Getting up there was a learning experience. It prepared me for what I needed to do to perform. I know when I got called up I was pretty worn down from the year. I was tired. It was late August and the whole shoulder thing from spring training had killed me because I couldn't lift weights like I wanted to. My body kind of broke down at the end.