Q&A: Dustin Pedroia, elder statesman of the post-Papi Red Sox

Farrell looking at Pedroia to take over leadership void (1:17)

John Farrell shares how the Red Sox plan to move on from David Ortiz and his thoughts on Pablo Sandoval getting himself in good shape. (1:17)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Go ahead and tell Dustin Pedroia he is the old man of the Boston Red Sox's clubhouse.

Just be ready to duck.

"Age is just a number, man," Pedroia says. "I plan on living a long time."

At least 100 years, according to Pedroia earlier this spring. And if you doubt Pedroia's earthly staying power, well, he's ready to prove you wrong again, just as he did a decade ago when nearly everyone questioned whether such an undersized underdog could make it in the big leagues.

"The good part about that is I'm a shortstop. [The Red Sox] have been not using me properly for the last 12 years or whatever, so that's the way I look at it. You say second basemen don't age well? Well, that's great because that's not my best position anyway."
Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia did more than make it. A former American League Rookie of the Year (2007) and MVP (2008), he is a four-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner and a two-time World Series champion. Since 2007, his first full season in the majors, he has a 51.5 WAR, second-best among all second basemen after Robinson Cano (58.4). In 2013, he became the first second baseman to sign a contract in excess of $100 million.

And after the retirement of franchise icon David Ortiz, Pedroia is the Red Sox's elder statesman -- 33 years and nearly 7 months old, 19 days older than outfielder Chris Young.

Pedroia still plays like what's left of his hair is on fire. He is feisty as ever, too, rejecting the narrative that he's the leader of the post-Ortiz Red Sox by insisting he has always been a leader. Mention that second basemen don't tend to age well and he boasts that he's different because he came up as a shortstop.

Pedroia recently talked about those topics and more in a conversation with ESPN.com:

What do you miss most about playing with David Ortiz?

DP: Just talking with him, one-on-one. You miss that. If I have an issue or something's wrong with me, I had that relationship where I could talk to him. He's older than me, he's been around longer, he's been through everything. I miss those talks, just seeing him every day. He's fun to be around.

Have you heard from him since spring training began?

DP: Yeah, I've texted with him a few times.

Think he misses this?

DP: [Laughing] No, no. He's enjoying life. Trust me.

When you were coming up, the Red Sox had a predominantly veteran team. What lessons did you learn from those guys -- Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Ortiz -- that you're able to pay forward to Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and other young players on this team?

DP: They didn't say anything. You just watched them, you saw how they worked every day, saw how they handled situations, how they handled good times, bad times, just how they carried themselves. But they never had to say anything. It was more just watching them.

Would you say that's your approach to leadership?

DP: Yeah, I mean, the guys that you need to say something to are the guys that probably aren't [a fit for] what we're trying to do, you know? I've been lucky that I've played with guys who were focused, they want to win, they're here for the right reasons, and you don't need to have those talks.

Has the team ever approached you about taking on the title of captain or even wearing a C on your jersey, a la Varitek?

DP: No. No one's said anything to me about it. I haven't even thought about anything like that.

Probably unnecessary, right? Most people look at you as the de facto captain anyway.

DP: I don't know. I don't think about it. I think I act the same now that I did my rookie year. I don't look at it any differently than previous years. You show up to win every day. Guys know if they need anything they can come to me -- or anybody.

But you did invite Andrew Benintendi to live with you last year after he got called up in August. That was something a captain might do.

DP: Well, he didn't have a place to stay. I've got, like, 10 rooms in my house. And my family wasn't there. My kids had to go back to school in Arizona. [Pedroia and his wife, Kelli, have three sons ranging in age from 2 to 7.] Guys do that all the time. It's like, 'Hey bro, I've got an extra room.'

Was Benintendi a good housemate? I heard you would send him out on Starbucks runs?

DP: [Laughing] Yeah, he's awesome.

It seemed like nothing fazed him about being in the big leagues. As someone who actually struggled upon initially getting called up [Pedroia batted .191 in 31 games in 2006], how impressive was it to see what Benintendi was able to do?

DP: That's when you know he's ready. Sometimes guys get called up and they're kind of like a deer in the headlights trying to feel everything out. He went about his work, did the same thing he did probably in Double-A or in college. Showed up, got ready to play, got ready to win, and that was it.

Do you prepare differently for a season at age 33 than you did at 23?

DP: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I can't lift like I used to. You've got to be smarter, you've got to change, you've got to adapt to new styles of training. You can't be hard-headed about it. If I'm hard-headed and I lift like I used to, I'm not going to last very long. You've got to make adjustments. You have to know your body, know what type of body you have and be smart.

You played with David Ortiz for 11 years, and you live during the season down the street from Tom Brady. Can you imagine still playing when you're 39, 40?

DP: I think the guys you're talking about are the guys that, mentally they're strong enough to block out all the talk. As you get older, people go, 'This guy's going to be done.' Trust me, if I want to play at 40 and be at the level I'm at now, I'll do it. Because I'll just tell myself I'm 31. Age is a number, man. It's just a matter of if you want to do it or not. I love playing. It's just like Little League, man. My oldest is getting ready for that. He loves it. I feel the same way that he does.

Your contract runs through 2021, by which time you will be 38. Since 1950, Joe Morgan, Lou Whitaker and Jeff Kent are the only full-time second basemen to have an .800 or better OPS at age 38.

DP: The good part about that is I'm a shortstop. [The Red Sox] have been not using me properly for the last 12 years or whatever, so that's the way I look at it. You say second basemen don't age well? Well, that's great because that's not my best position anyway.