NEW YORK -- For Dustin Pedroia, the decision to play the final two games of the season with an avulsion fracture in his left ring finger was multidimensional.
The Red Sox are playing against the Yankees, who are still in a fight with the Orioles to win the American League East. Pedroia loves to play baseball, and there are only two more chances to do that this season.
And the other reason was perhaps most important to him. The Red Sox have a lot of young, impressionable players in their clubhouse right now, and Pedroia is trying to lead by example, even as his team completes a highly frustrating and non-contending season.
"We've got a lot of young guys on our team," Pedroia said. "Sometimes you get nicked up, stuff like that. It's part of the job. You get beat up. You slide into bases. You get your finger stepped on or hit a base or whatever. But they know I'm going to be out there, and they should be out there, too, if it happens to them. It's a team."
The only reason Pedroia didn't play on Monday is because his finger was literally too swollen and tender to allow him to swing the bat. He didn't enjoy watching his team get drilled, 10-2.
"I want to play," Pedroia said. "I want to be out there for the guys. Yesterday was tough. We got our butts kicked. We've just got to try to go play, and hopefully play well enough to win."
Of course, there are a lot more games ahead for Pedroia, and he wouldn't be playing Tuesday and Wednesday if there was a risk for worsening his injury. Nor would the Red Sox allow him to do so.
"They said it's only -- only -- and I'm quoting, 'only' a pain tolerance situation," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I don't care about the situation. If anybody's been watching, and I'm sure everyone has, how can you miss it? Dustin always does more than you could ever expect anyone to do on a baseball field, whether it's when he's running to first or fielding a ball or mounting up for that day's activity.
"He's extraordinary. So was I surprised when I got the text that he said he was fine? I fell off my bike -- literally, and I don't know why I was surprised."
Pedroia seemed amused that people would think it was a big deal he would play with a fracture.
"It doesn't hurt that bad," Pedroia said. "I'll just go play."
Whatever pain Pedroia has from his finger doesn't compare to watching his team fall hopelessly out of contention, something the second baseman has never experienced in his career.
"Nobody likes losing," Pedroia said. "We want to win. It's tough when you lose 90 games or 91 games or however many we've lost. That's something we're not going to be happy about, and we're going to do all we can to make sure that doesn't happen anymore."
Meanwhile, Pedroia will grit through the pain these last two nights to do what he loves doing most.
"I love playing," said Pedroia. "It's fun. I get to compete for two more games, and then I've got to sit around for six months and wait until I get to do it again. Why not? What else am I going to do? I get to go home and play football with my 3-year-old."