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Scrappy Pedroia reminds Red Sox of Eckstein

June 7, 2004
By John Tomase

BOSTON--Its easy to look at scrappy Red Sox top pick Dustin Pedroia and fall into the tools vs. performance debate. But general manager Theo Epstein wants none of it.

When youve accomplished what he has and can do what he can do, youre not a performance player or a tools player--youre a special player, Epstein said. Thats why we drafted him.

The Red Sox didnt select until 65th overall, surrendering their first rounder to sign free agent Keith Foulke this winter. They made Arizona States Golden Spikes finalist their first pick based on his package that included a stellar glove, outstanding bat and plus makeup.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound shortstop has earned frequent comparisons to Angels sparkplug David Eckstein, and the Red Sox happily nabbed him.

Weve scouted Dustin since he was on Team USA, scouting director David Chadd said. At Arizona State, he was the first one on the field and the last one off. Hes just a grinder. Eckstein is a very good comparison. Strategically we were caught off guard that he was available.

Last years Pacific-10 Player of the Year, Pedroia ranks among ASUs all-time leaders in batting average (.384), doubles (71) and hits (298). He boasts a lifetime on-base percentage of .466 and did not miss a game in three years with the Sun Devils.

For all of his offensive prowess, however, Pedroia spoke most proudly of his glovework. The Red Sox plan to leave him at short, though many see him as a future second baseman.

Defense is something everyone has to take pride in, Pedroia said. Defense is mental toughness. You have to stay in the game every inning, pitch by pitch. At shortstop, youre the quarterback of the defense.

The Red Sox had no clear designs on Pedroia when the draft started, though he certainly fit their mold of a productive collegian with a good batting eye. He struck out only 11 times last season.

When your first pick is 65th, the first thing you do is make a list of the guys youd love to have, but dont think will be there, Epstein said. Dustin was on that list.

Pedroia is ready for the challenge, which will likely begin at short-season Lowell.

My main goal isnt for myself, he said. Its for my team to win a championship. Thats what I bring to the table every day.

SOX YARNS

The Red Sox selected college pitchers with their next four picks after Pedroia. Fifteen of their first 17 picks came from either the college or junior college ranks.

One of the high schoolers will probably be their toughest sign. Lefthander Mike Rozier, out of Georgia's Henry County High, has committed to play quarterback and pitch at North Carolina.

The Red Sox spent their fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks on college relievers tabbing Wichita State lefthander Tommy Hottovy, San Diego State lefty Ryan Schroyer and Virginia Commonwealth righthander Cla Meredith.

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