GM: Red Sox priority is being healthy

Updated: February 10, 2011, 10:55 PM ET
By Gordon Edes |

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After a season that saw the Boston Red Sox decimated by injuries to key players, general manager Theo Epstein said Thursday his top priority during spring training will be to make sure those players still recovering are back to 100 percent by Opening Day.

"I know we say this every year but everyone I've seen [so far at camp] looks to be in great shape and we're all excited to get going," Epstein said, making his first public remarks of spring training. "Health has to be the biggest question. It usually is, but in our case we have so many players coming off surgery, coming off injury that we're going to keep a close eye on them. We look forward to a full squad of players coming together."

Epstein echoed the positive outlook relayed Wednesday by Adrian Gonzalez, that the new Red Sox first baseman appears to be ahead of schedule in his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. Gonzalez originally had been slated to start swinging a bat around March 1.

"If he's dong as well as he seems, we may move up the timetable," Epstein said. "I think we all feel he'll be ready by Opening Day. We're excited he's feeling so good and here early."

Epstein said the team would be careful with second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was limited to 75 games last season after suffering a fracture in his left foot that required surgery. Pedroia recently told he was experiencing some discomfort but was "getting better every day."

"Obviously we're going to take a conservative plan with him this spring," Epstein said. "The goal is to get him ready for Opening Day, not the college exhibition games."

Epstein acknowledged Pedroia's ups and downs during the winter, but said he thought that was mostly because the foot was immobilized for so long. A team source told last month that Pedroia would not have any specific restrictions during spring training.

Epstein added that team brass was going to have meetings with the medical staff Saturday and Sunday to get full updates on all players recovering from injury.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter,